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Love Lifting

Love Lifting

Chapman To and Elanne Kong love and lift in Love Lifting.

Chinese: 高舉‧愛
Year: 2012
Director: Herman Yau Lai-To
Writer: Herman Yau Lai-To, Yang Yee-Shan, Yang Ya-Wen
Cast: Chapman To Man-Chat, Elanne Kong Yeuk-Lam, Tien Niu, Jones Xu, Zhang Song-Wen, Huang Jian-Xin, Feng Hao-Xu, Lee Fung, Joe Cheung Tung-Cho, Jun Kung, Bob Lam, Siu Fei
The Skinny: Seemingly outrageous premise is played straight to positive, low-key effect. Director Herman Yau never oversells Love Lifting, making it enjoyable and probably a little too light. A likable if inessential film. Elanne Kong is surprisingly effective in the lead role.
by Kozo:

A movie about a female weightlifter? And she’s played by waif-like idol singer Elanne Kong? Who would believe this cinematic combination? Well believe it, because in Love Lifting, director Herman Yau makes his weightlifting heroine into a believable and enjoyable protagonist, and Elanne Kong is genuinely engaging in the role. Co-written by Yau, Yang Yee-Shan (Whispers and Moans) and Yang Ya-Wen, Love Lifting is a solidly inspirational and sometimes too-chipper sports drama that won’t find a very large audience outside of Hong Kong. Credit or blame Herman Yau for that – the director has never been one to overplay a film’s premise, meaning Love Lifting is not a manufactured zero-to-hero tale that will get audiences everywhere cheering in the aisles. The film is, however, worthwhile in its own agreeable, low-key way.

Li Li (Elanne Kong) is a female weightlifter with dreams of Olympic gold, but she’s forced into early retirement by her diabetes. At a tough time in her life, Li Li makes ends meet with odd jobs requiring use of her physical strength, while constantly smiling and keeping a positive attitude. She catches the eye of failed bar owner Shek Yung (Chapman To), and before long he’s finding her new jobs, then taking her to dinner and finally marrying her. The two start a happy home, and though her diabetes causes risk, she bravely goes through with a surprise pregnancy. Li Li and Yung are now proud parents with a seaside flat, steady working class jobs and stable, caring neighbors and friends. Life obviously is pretty OK, but Li Li still thinks about her weightlifting days, and Yung is far too sensitive not to notice.

At Yung’s urging, weightlifting coach Chan Chiu (Zhang Song-Wen) takes Li Li under his wing, ushering her return to competition and potentially the 2012 Olympic Games. What follows is a relatively low-key look at how a person suffering diabetes might attempt an athletic comeback – a process that comes with red tape, prejudice and problems at home and in the gym. The script never fully explains what Li Li’s fascination with weightlifting is, but that’s fine. Not everything in life requires explanation, and Herman Yau propels the film forward so assuredly that it never lacks convince. Love Lifting is dramatic but not melodramatic, and doesn’t milk its tear-jerking twists more than it has to. The film does have narrative debits: some dialogue is pointed and cheesy, and a surprising third act event smells like a standard melodrama device. Thankfully, the film moves past those events quickly and cleanly, never lingering long enough to hinder the film or the audience.

There are a multitude of themes at play in Love Lifting, among them the power of love, and also how positive thinking can kick all sorts of ass. True to Yang Yee-Shan’s other work, there’s a social conscience here but it’s not overbearing or too didactic. There’s little darkness and really no enemies – no Cobra Kai bad guys show up to make Li Li’s rise to contender a harrowing one, and the true villains of the piece are bad luck and life’s vagaries. Yung’s ex-wife is the only truly negative character, and she’s just a disembodied phone voice asking for alimony payments. Everyone else is super cool and admits their errors instantly or eventually. Actually, everyone is probably too well-intentioned, but given the film’s short running time and positive message, this lack of negativity is less a flaw and more of a feature. There’s complexity in the film’s subject matter but Herman Yau and his writers never really choose to address it.

Acting is solid if not complex. Chapman To’s Yung is flawed but clear-headed; he recognizes his mistakes and never seems ashamed to place his wife’s needs and dreams in front of his own. To is a good enough actor that he can do earnest without winking too much, and he’s got a fine screen partner in Elanne Kong, who convincingly makes Li Li into an engaging character. Kong seems like a bad fit for a weightlifter, but she so completely throws herself into the role that nagging doubts disappear quickly. Also, Kong convinces that there’s emotion beneath her ever-present smile, a minor but welcome development in Kong’s previously limited acting repertoire. Like some of Herman Yau's smaller efforts, the film has a local affection and sense of community that’s warm and beguiling. International cineastes may not care all that much, but Kong, To and Yau convince that Love Lifting’s characters are decent people well worth knowing. That may not be worth loud celebration, but quiet applause is appropriate. (Kozo 2012)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Universe Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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Image credit: Universe Films Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen