Tempting Heart (1999)

  • Year: 1999
  • Released: 23 Sep 1999
  • Country: Hong Kong
  • Adwords: 2 wins & 13 nominations
  • IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0215240/
  • Rotten Tomatoes: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/tempting_heart
  • Metacritics:
  • Available in: 720p, 1080p,
  • Language: Cantonese
  • MPA Rating: N/A
  • Genre: Drama, Romance
  • Runtime: 115 min
  • Writer: Sylvia Chang, Cat Kwan
  • Director: Sylvia Chang
  • Cast: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Gigi Leung, Karen Mok
  • Keywords: woman director,
81% – Critics
81% – Audience

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Tempting Heart Movie Reviews

A Film for those who have fallen in love before……

A female director (Chang) decides to make a autobiographical film on her love life and we see it through the use of flashbacks and brilliant intercutting. Leung plays the younger Chang as she goes through a relationship with Kaneshiro which spans 3 decades. Tender and touching, the film is filled with memorable scenes and lines as it follows the couple through the meandering river that is love. An unforgettable film especially for those who have been in love before….the finale will definitely wet many eyes.

Beautiful in parts; uneven otherwise

The beauty of Xin Dong is in its understated portrayal of first love – just a simple story of an ordinary boy and girl, and the events that happen years after their heady adolescent love runs its course. It’s not always a happy film, but neither is it a sad one; kind of like life, really. Some poignant touches sets this film apart from the many others of the same genre, and the celluloid-perfect leads play their roles surprisingly well, especially Gigi Leung as the innocent and slightly gawky Hsiao-rou. It’s uneven though, with some unnecessary scenes that greatly slow down the pace of the movie. But then comes the absolutely classic ending, one of those that make your heart ache for that moment, and which you remember for a long time to come.

Plot with spoilers: unexpectedly enjoyed.

The movie starts out with a woman at a bar in Japan just as the band is introducing a guitar player. The woman’s bar-mate translates that the guitarist is a tour-guide by day. We see, Sho-ru and Chen-li meeting Ho-gun for the first time, at a school concert; he is with his ‘cousin’ and the girls speculate on whether the ‘cousin’ is indeed a relative. Sho and Chen run into Ho at parties etc, with Ho sometimes playing his guitar. At one early party, Ho keeps looking over to where Chen and Sho are standing and Chen counts the number of times he does this while wondering which of them he is looking at. At a later party Sho walks up to Ho presumably about to ask him which of the two he was looking at when she vomits on him, having gotten a little tipsy from the punch. A few days later, Chen is rushed to the hospital with a terrible headache and that day Ho comes to see Sho at school. They spend the afternoon together and when they check in on Chen at her house in the evening, Chen asks them “Were you two together all afternoon?” Sho and Ho are getting closer and Chen is being distant to Sho. Sho has been living with her aunt and around Christmas time her mother comes to visit with her fiancé. Sho is thus unable to spend time with Ho during the holidays. She is able to get away one day and spend the night with Ho at a motel though nothing happens. This is quickly discovered and Sho’s mother threatens to never see her again if she decides to stay in Hong Kong. When Sho says she would still rather stay with Ho than go to Canada with her mother, she goes ballistic and instead meets with Ho.

All along, we have also been shown a parallel storyline where a female film director is telling this story to a screenwriter. They analyze the characters together and discuss points, such as how Sho’s mother’s reaction is too typical, etc.

After meeting Sho’s mother, Ho is distant to Sho, being abrupt on the phone, and having almost no contact with her. When Sho shows up at his house to discuss something that Chen has mentioned to her, they fight and break up. As Sho is being comforted by Chen, Chen abruptly declares her love for Sho. Sho screams her utter shock and horror at this revelation and next we see Sho leaving with her mother for Canada and Ho leaving his house. Sho grows to be a designer and we see her getting assigned a business trip to Japan.

We’ve had a pretty good idea of what’s been going on so far with the director and her relation to the story but at this point, we know for sure that this is her own story, as the screenwriter asks why Sho’s job has been changed from director to designer and the director tells him that stories shouldn’t be identical.

Sho runs into Ho in Japan who is a tour-guide and it is clear by their conversation that they’ve had no contact with another since Hong Kong. After dinner they end up in bed and the next time they meet, Ho tells Sho that he is married but they still go to bed again. At this point the director says that just because they’ve had sex, this cannot be an affair considering Sho met Ho before anybody else but the screenwriter says that Sho is a little obsessed and that Ho is irresponsible. Ho and Sho keep in contact through mail and we find out that Sho does not know who Ho’s wife is because she neglected to ask. As we see Ho reading a letter from Sho, we also see him gathering a blanket and pillow from the master bedroom where his wife sleeps and assume the marriage is not all well. As Ho is writing a response to Sho the wife walks in and it is Chen. She wants to talk.

Ho is at the doorstep of Sho’s house where she lives with her mother who never remarried. He has come to see Sho but she is out and instead we get a flashback of what happened back when Sho’s mother had a talk with Ho and his mother. She pleads to him that Sho is everything to her, and this is perhaps why Ho gave Sho up.

Ho is waiting at Sho’s house with her mother for Sho and in their conversation we are told that he is just recently divorced and with no children. Sho comes home and as she and Ho talk at a café, he asks her as she is so busy, would she have time to be married. He takes out a ring and drops it in a glass of water. If she drinks all the water it is yes and if she leaves something it is no. Sho asks him why he got divorced and he says because of differences in personalities. Sho continues to talk about how her company is sending her to all of these chaotic places and Ho tells her that she can quit it all and come live with him in Japan. She says she cannot, she has work. She then takes the ring out of the glass and puts it on her finger while saying she doesn’t want him to force a response out of her.

The screenwriter asks if they cannot get together because they didn’t work hard for it. The director says that they couldn’t force each others lives. The screenwriter asks, perhaps Sho knew she wouldn’t have a better life in Japan with Ho and perhaps Ho was too weak to make Sho come with him.