feedingbrett’s review published on Letterboxd:
The two souls of Wong Kar-Wai’s Happy Together is a sign of emotional complexity that felt missing in his earlier work, with clearly a new stepping stone in the filmmaker’s career, in his writing lies a maturity in perspective and introspection that further enhances the aura of authenticity that already runs deep in his filmography.
As the title suggests Lai Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung) and Ho Po-Wing (Leslie Chung) are happy together, but it is a happiness that seems to only last temporarily. We see the two individuals drift as the state of their lives that they currently reside in are no longer compatible, arguments fume and isolation becomes a solace. As with any separation from something we hold dear, both Yiu-Fai and Po-Wing suffer from their time apart, they find themselves still moving on with their lives but crippled by a loneliness that would only compel them to return to one another after a chance encounter, hoping to start over and heal their wounds.
Po-Wing frequently suggests in “starting over”, to run through the relationship as if the pain and troubles of the past no longer held any weight over them. Kar-Wai seems to suggest a motion of cycle that would convey the brimming blossom of their love, a need and comfort over one another as their vulnerabilities begin to heal, but what is left are only scars that once again reminds the wounds that they had suffered and repeatedly endure them. Nil growth was earned from this restart, remaining stagnant in their place, having only to realise in their need to move on. Of course, such a process would not be an easy one, as reflecting the nature of human beings, to get through the end of the tunnel is one full of heartaches and confusion; characters fall in dark places, albeit temporarily, in order to relieve the pain, but eventually the heart prospers and moves on.
Although the copy of the film that I used lacked the clarity and pop that I am sure Kar-Wai and cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, intended, there was a still a wondrous magic to it all. The tight close-ups, the kinetic motions, the vivid colours, it feels like a reflected dream, glowing in nostalgia and affection, heightening each felt emotion from the characters, bleeding onto the environments they stand and bring forth an expressionism that speaks so boldly. It feels like the films that Kar-Wai produces is the film that Terrence Malick attempts to grasp in To The Wonder and Knight of Cups, but since the former doesn’t overarch himself in favour for thematic density, gaps are felt and encouraged for audiences to fill, creating a sense of bind between ourselves and the characters.
Happy Together offers a lot with only doing so little, and that is a presentation that many filmmakers attempt to do but fail in their own ambitions. There is a genuineness to Kar-Wai’s work that attracts his viewers time and time again, and given the way he fabricates and composes his characters and narratives, it is hard to not to feel affectionate towards them. Having seen most of his films, I can firmly and personally say that Wong Kar-Wai is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and one that I deeply cherish.