Zero Point Five Love

China (2014) Dir. GengXiao

Can love be broken down to a mathematical equation? I’ll never find out but there is bound to be some boffin out there who might think so. Surely, if there was then it would be “you + me = love” or something equally as trite. Perhaps I’m not being philosophical enough…

On a Chinese TV dating show, three well-to-do men appear hoping to find love. One is company CEO Chen Zi Hao (Purba Rgyal), a quiet, conservative chap who likes to plan things out and work to a set routine. Another is film producer Lu Yi Ping (Li Yue Ming), a self made man of humble origins. During the show, one of the girls to be chosen draws the attention of Chen and the other man but not Lu, which proves controversial.

This is because the girl is Tong Xinyu (Gong Jie), Lu’s ex-girlfriend of five years and an employee of Chen’s. Tong tearfully demands to know why Lu didn’t chosen her but he remains silent. Meanwhile, in a hospital room is Ye Ting (Jessie Chiang), a terminally ill cancer patient and Chen’s ex, having not told him of her condition. A flashback reveals he history between these two couples.

A rather slight film at just 78-minutes in length, Zero Point Five Love packs a lot into this brisk runtime, albeit mostly genre clichés which is why it turns out to be quite a surprise to find oneself invested in the key relationships. Director GengXiao often seems to think he is making a pop video given the choppy editing and manic camerawork but when he settles down, he produces a schmaltzy, lachrymose, but tidy little drama.

Referring to the “philosophical” quip in the opening paragraph, the film’s title is from Tong’s personal belief of what love is, suggesting it is not 1 + 1 = 2 but two halves needing the other to complete them and make a whole. Makes sense I suppose, but this conventional whimsy is half the story; the other is examining the idea of love at first sight and whether knowing a person well is where the true romance is.

It’s indicative of the sort of person Tong is – sweet, giving, and putting others first. When she appears on the TV show, she openly says she isn’t looking for love but someone to be with her all the time because they want to be with her. Tong thought she had found that with Lu, making sacrifices so Lu’s dream of a becoming a film producer would come true, which it did, but after the messy break up which Lu instigated.

Something I have to point out about the TV dating show – I do hope it isn’t based on a real show as it takes the spinning chair format of The Voice, with the three men in the chairs and they turn if they like what they hear from the prospective girl. Maybe it’s me, but it is one thing to do that for singer, it’s borderline soul destroying to do that for a dating show. Now you can understand why Tong was upset when Lu didn’t spin his chair for her.

Back to the story and the saga of Chen and Ye Ting. It begins with a meet cute as Ye – dressed in a panda costume – drives her mini into Chen’s flashy motor and he helps her out. Ye then races out of the car park and into a building where she ends to change, but the ladies’ loos are locked so she uses the gents, but now her dress is torn. In walks Chen, and Ye begs to borrow his shirt, for Ye is a dancer putting on a turn at the fancy party Chen is at.

Except Ye isn’t aware that Chen is hosting the part and the “stingy boss” who underpays her she just complained to him about, running off in embarrassment. But Chen is impressed and learning Ye is a student recently returned from Britain with no money or a home, invites her to stay with him. Soon Ye is putting her personal touches onto the apartment which Chen finds stifling and stays away at work rather than go home.

Proving the old adage about the path of true love never running smoothly true, we have a clashing dichotomy of Chen and Ye having all the money but not the happiness, whilst Tong and Lu have no money but are happy. Yet within this second scenario is another dichotomy of Tong proving successful in working her way up the company ladder yet Lu struggles to get his eventual break.

Where the script works rather well is in how the two worlds subtly overlap then collide in a very public way on the TV show. The outcome may not be completely unexpected and this applies to both plots, but are handled in a way that as one giveth, the other taketh way, and the idea is the audience experiences dual emotions at this denouement. The only thing that doesn’t quite work is the bookend of the fortuneteller but that is just me, I’m sure other will find it cogent.

GengXiao is clearly a director in tune with fashion as the film comes across as a parade of glamour and glitz, from the shimmering photography to the bold colour palette and naturally photogenic cast. For the men, Purba Rgyal is suitably stilted as Chen whereas Li Yue Ming has an earthier side to Lu, but it is the women who steal the show – Jessie Chiang never loses Ye’s zest even when stricken with cancer, whilst Gong Jie is too adorable as the loyal but easily tearful Tong.

Zero Point Five Love doesn’t shift any paradigms but is smarter than it might appear, with characters that endear themselves to the audience in such a short amount of time. If you enjoy a good weepy but don’t mind convention, this is one for you.

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