Waiting for Love



Pusan International Film Festival

BUSAN, South Korea -- Filmmaker James Lee premieres the third part of a loose trilogy on love and relationships in modern Malaysia, following "Before We Fall in Love Again" and "Things We Do When We Fall in Love." For those who found Lee's sparse dialogue and minimalist action mesmerizing, "Waiting for Love" will be a treat. For everyone else, it will be a chore. "Waiting for Love" will likely make the festival circuit rounds, particularly fests that screened the earlier films.

In three segments unfolding in what appears to be the same apartment, couples wrangle over relationships and try to determine where to go next. In the first, Lim and Amelia (Lim Kien Lee and Amelia Chen) have been together for a moderate amount of time. He wants to get married; she's not sure they have a future. They argue over a mysterious letter Amelia received from another man and what the letter -- and her reluctance to toss it in the trash -- mean.

In the second section, Pete and Bernice (Pete Teo and Bernice Chauly) have been together even longer. She works; he stays at home, the result of an unidentified illness. She's clearly more engaged in the relationship.

Rounding out the film are Amy and Lai (Amy Len and Loh Bok Lai), a young couple most likely at the beginning of a relationship. They still take the time to be outwardly tender and caring.

As in Lee's preceding films, "Waiting" is light on dialogue and music, leaving the actions, reactions and motivations of the characters open to interpretation. The final entry in the trilogy is less reliant on plot (if it can be said the earlier films had conventional plots), and is a more thematic piece. Lee once again keeps his camera static and cuts to a minimum, with actual words merely mumbled.

With each pair at a turning point in their lives, the subtlest of looks or pauses potentially contain great meaning. Lee is a master of distant observation. Once again, he proves his ability to create reasonably vivid characters with little or few details to work with.

"Waiting for Love" does feel like a rehash of his own earlier, stronger films. In an emergent Malaysian cinema, the refined elegance of Woo Ming Jin's "The Elephant and the Sea" and the complexity of Tan Chui Mui's "Love Conquers All" are the benchmarks to which "Waiting" doesn't measure up.

A Doghouse73 Pictures, Da Huang Pictures production
Screenwriter-director-producer: James Lee
Director of photography: Jimmy Ishmael
Production designer: Tan Hooi Ching
Editor: James Lee
Amy: Amy Len
Bernice: Bernice Chauly
Pete: Pete Teo
Lai: Loh Bok Lai
Amelia: Amelia Chen
Lim: Lim Kien Lee

Running time -- 73 minutes
No MPAA rating