'It's Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong': LAFF Review

A lightweight but likable romance.

Hong Kong becomes the third character in a romantic drama that recalls Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise" trilogy.

Many films shown at this year’s LA Film Festival echo earlier movies. Viewers who watch the charming romance It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong will undoubtedly be reminded of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, which focused on two characters talking over a period of several hours. Those movies showcased the settings as well as the characters, and Hong Kong emerges as a stunning backdrop for the lengthy conversations of the two potential lovers in Emily Ting’s film. This small film may just find a small but passionate audience.

One distinction between this movie and the Linklater films is that this one actually takes place over two nights. The first part of the movie centers on the meeting of Josh (Bryan Greenberg), an expat businessman living in Hong Kong, and Ruby (Jamie Chung), a toy designer who is there on an assignment. She asks him for directions to a night spot, and he walks her there as they start to get to know each other. But when she learns that he already has a girlfriend, their encounter comes to a chilly conclusion. Then they meet by accident a year later, when she has relocated to Hong Kong, and their connection deepens over the course of another nighttime conversation.

Ting keeps us interested in these conversations, partly because she does plant a few surprise revelations, and also because the Hong Kong locations are so enticing. Just as Sofia Coppola made expert use of Tokyo in Lost in Translation, Ting has used her own experiences living in Hong Kong to find novel and alluring backdrops for the couple’s dialogue. It has been said that every memorable romantic movie includes a scene where the two lovers dance together, and there is such a scene in Hong Kong that registers potently. The ambiguous ending is perhaps the clearest echo of Linklater’s movies, very reminiscent of the final moments in Before Sunset.

Greenberg first attracted attention when he played Meryl Streep’s son in Prime, and Chung has been seen in the two sequels to The Hangover, among other films. This may be the best vehicle they have had. They both demonstrate considerable charm here, and their change in appearance over the course of the year is cleverly observed. There are, however, a few too many unnecessary references to Josh’s Jewishness, and the writing falters at other moments. (A tepid discussion of Seinfeld adds nothing.) But it’s always entertaining to tag along with these attractive actors on their photogenic journey.

Production: Unbound Feet Productions

Cast: Bryan Greenberg, Jamie Chung, Richard Ng

Director-screenwriter:  Emily Ting

Producers:  Sophia Shek, Emily Ting

Executive producers:  Bryan Greenberg, Jamie Chung

Consulting producer:  Ishai Setton

Director of photography:  Josh Silfen

Production designer:  Haley Keim

Editor:  Danielle Wang

Music:  Timo Chen

No rating, 79 minutes