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Café. Waiting. Love (等一个人咖啡) is a romantic comedy film based on the novel of the same name written by Giddens Ko (柯景腾/九把刀) , who's also the writer/director for the 2011 Taiwanese hit that captures the hearts of audiences of all ages, You Are the Apple of My Eye (那些年，我们一起追的女孩). The film is directed by Jiang Jin lin (江金霖) instead of Giddens Ko himself (but he's still the screenwriter and producer of the film). So this time around, did they manage to replicate the success of the previous film? Unfortunately, no.
The story is about Si Ying, a college freshman who gets a part-time job at "Café. Waiting. Love" coffee shop because she develops an instant crush for a good-looking popular boy named Zeyu, who's a frequent customer at the café, after he 'saved' her from a bus accident. Si Ying eventually meets with Ah Tuo, a 'legendary' college senior at the coffee shop. The two eventually become good friends after Si Ying daringly stands up for him when he is teased by his friends. As time passes, Si Ying learned that Ah Tuo is a passionate, honest, straightforward and sincere young man who has been working multiple part-time jobs to realize his dream of travelling around the world and formed a bond with him. On the other hand, Ah Tuo is also deeply attracted to her kindness and unique sense of justice. However, Si Ying only sees Ah Tuo as nothing more than a good friend because of her crush on Zeyu, until finally when he decides to leave Taiwan for his travels then she finally realizes where her heart truly belongs.
While You are the Apple of My Eye (那些年，我们一起追的女孩) is a memorable, feel-good yet bittersweet romantic comedy that gives the audience a familiar, nostalgic feeling about real-life adolescent romantic relationships (which I gave a high rating of 8.5/10), the romance presented in this one is rather unrealistic, nonsensical and occasionally silly to the point that it feels like it could only happen in films. Moreover, the romance is hampered by the film's lack of seriousness and unrealistic portrayal of the characters. (Come on, who is stupid enough to be willing to dress in a bikini and carry a cabbage for long periods of time and delayed his graduation for 7 years just because he lost a few college bets?) The character romances are handled rather poorly as the film lacks coherency and doesn't take itself seriously enough to let the audience feel that the romance is a serious matter.
The film is filled with too many cheesy, corny and cringe-worthy dialogues that makes some scenes really unbearable to watch. Aside from the ridiculous 'supernatural' or 'magical' scenes between the leads involving hot sausages and bowls of dou hua (Chinese hot sweet soybean pudding), the film also comes with a few surprising plot twists that doesn't make much sense either. In my opinion, the café owner's (played by Vivian Chow) tragic love story is incredibly overdramatic to the point that it feels artificial and hard to relate with. Some of the romantic subplots are not resolved properly...the café's lesbian barista's feelings for the cafe owner is not addressed further or touched upon later on in the film.
However, I have to admit that the film is beautifully shot, well-edited and wonderfully casted. Despite its silliness, some of the slapstick humour does work in some cases and manage to provide the audience a few laughs here and there. Jiang Jin lin (江金霖) and Giddens Ko (柯景腾/九把刀) do know how to pick suitable good-looking stars with sufficient appeal (and knows how to act as well) to attract the audiences. The assembled cast (especially Vivian Sung 宋芸樺, the female lead) tried their best to convey the necessary character emotions convincingly to the audience.
Although the romance between the lead characters is there, the film doesn't express its themes well enough. Basically, the film tries to show us the difference between love and infatuation. Since infatuation can sometimes lead to real love, these feelings are most often confused for each other by many people. Infatuation is the state of being completely carried away by passion without reason and depends largely on physical attraction. When you experience infatuation, you tend to have difficulty concentrating and your mind is totally consumed by thoughts of the other person. You constantly wondering about what they do, who they're with and your mind filled with uncertainties about whether they really love you or not. Eventually, you develop an idealized vision of what this person is like without truly knowing him/her at all (by imposing various qualities we desire most in that person). This is the reason why, each and everyone of us end up spending most of our time and energy waiting for that someone at some point in our lives...hoping that one day the idealized version of the one we're waiting for eventually appears.
However, true love is something different. Love is a tender, passionate, intense affection for another person. Love is a gradual process that only deepens with the passage of time. You can tell this person anything about yourself...he/she is someone you can express yourself freely, a person you can fully trust and confide your secrets with. You tend to feel safe, secure, peaceful and comfortable when you're with that person. Most importantly, you truly care for the person even after knowing his/her faults and flaws. There's respect, mutual acceptance and tolerance.
The film has mistakenly emphasized the wrong elements in the wrong places at the wrong time. The central theme of a story should be the main point you're trying to make or the message you want to convey to your audience. Without it, the storyline becomes muddled and the film will lose its focus and direction.
Overall, this film is a massive letdown that didn't live up to my expectations. If you're fan of the novel or Giddens Ko (柯景腾/九把刀), you might be able to sit through most of the silly scenes and forgive its flaws and absurdities. But for me, it's definitely a miss.
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