|Chi ming yu chun giu 2010 Hong Kong Love in a Puff|
The premise of Love in a Puff is one all cigarette smokers will be familiar with. The "smoke break" is a time to bond with co-workers or friends, to make plans and share stories, and, in this case, tell dirty jokes and gossip. It's also an opportunity to massage in baby steps a possibly romantic relationship. There's a lot less "Is this a date?" pressure than even just meeting for coffee. There's a pre-determined end time and it comes quickly. If things aren't going well the suffering is short-lived and if there is a spark you'll leave wanting more. Always a good thing.
Zoom out from the premise and Love in a Puff makes many observations on modern SMS-based relationships, budding and otherwise. Something I learned, and put to use, from this film is if you type "i n 55!W !" (without the quotes) into a text message your recipient might see it as some nonsense code, but if they turn their phone upside down it will read "i miss u !". How cute. And appropriately enough, that little tidbit is the catalyst for a couple of the larger emotional transitions in the film.
I like small films like this, the cinematic equivalent, if you will, of a smoke break. Without aiming too high it's easy to hit its mark. It's well acted, and well scripted for the most part, and doesn't veer from its target too often, which is following the seven day courtship of Cherie (Miriam Yeung) and Jimmy (Shawn Yue). Yeung is especially crisp in her performance. There's a wonderful little "no shit!" moment near the end of the film when the two of them are in a small battle about who they are and what kind of relationship they're in and Cherie declares "I'm simple and straightforward". She is.
My only quibble with the film is an unavoidable one. To go from "My name's Cherie", through moving out of the premises and bond of one relationship, to "I'm simple and straightforward" in seven days requires a brisk pace. Maybe that's the way it is these days. There is a time or two where it seems like a little exposition might have ended up on the cutting room floor but maybe things are clearer in the original language and subtitles short of an essay couldn't translate it. Most of the screen time is devoted to the main protagonists, garnished with a handful of side characters and set pieces that don't detract from the lit up screen chemistry required of all good Rom-Coms and provided by Yeung and Yue. All in all a fun time was had with Love in a Puff.
Summary: Since 2007, the Hong Kong Health Authority has implemented an anti-smoking law that bans smoking in all indoor areas. This pushes office smokers to take their cigarette breaks in the street. Smokers from neighboring buildings gradually bond and form a new community known as "Hot Pot Pack," as they would gather around a trash bin with an ashtray, sharing small talks with raunchy jokes like they are at a hot pot dinner.
Jimmy is a mild mannered advertising executive in his twenties. While smoking in an alley packed with booming loudmouth co-workers and sharing explicit gossips and horror stories, he befriends a misfit cosmetics salesgirl Cherie who also likes to light up. An awkward romance soon blossoms amidst the anxiety of their nicotine rush. As they become more attached to each other, they also find themselves moving farther away from their regular hot pot pack into their own private alley, where their conversations suggest more emotional depths, covering the collision of reality and delightfully trivial matters of the bizarre people around them.