The film’s inspiration clearly stems from Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy, which focused on two characters walking and talking in a foreign city as they fall in love, then repeated the situation through two more films that dramatized their developing relationship.
Ting situates her nighttime walking-and-talking in the colorful and dynamic city of Hong Kong, making it a third character to her romantic duo. She and her cinematographer Josh Silfen capture the East/West metropolis in all the glory of its saturated colors, vibrant streets, neon lights, music venues and iconic skyline.
While it may not dig as deeply as the Linklater films into the nuances of modern romance and relationships, it’s a beguiling first-date movie that actually might work well for anyone on a first date — and any couple long past first dates. Valentine’s Day anyone?
This results in a seemingly effortless stroll through the photogenic streets of Hong Kong with two delightfully photogenic people you want to fall in love.
Things can’t go that smoothly, of course, and the one hitch creates Ting’s only departure from Linklater’s formula.
Instead of the movie taking place over the hours of a single night, “Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong” takes place over two nights a year apart.
Chung plays Ruby, a Chinese-American toy designer from Los Angeles on a first-time business trip to Hong Kong. When she needs directions from Greenberg’s Josh, an American expat, he offers to walk her to her destination.
As they stroll the streets and he points out the sights, she learns he is a businessman and long time resident who longs to chuck it all to write fiction. She nonchalantly encourages him to do so, but then discovers something about his situation that brings their nocturnal amble to a chilly close.
A year later, they meet accidentally on a ferry and the sly courtship resumes leading to a nicely ambiguous ending. One does immediately notice a change to Josh’s wardrobe, tipping you off that he took Ruby’s advice. Meanwhile she has actually moved to Hong Kong and is now an expat as well.
Their relationship develops credibly with just the right amount of flirtation, meaningful glances and subtextual nuances. The film doesn’t go much beyond this nor should it.
Ting, who did live in Hong Kong for five years as an expat, puts her experiences to good advantage to capture the city from an outsider’s point of view while knowing the best backdrops and vistas for her romantic pair.
Greenberg played Meryl Streep’s son in “Prime” and was seen in HBO’s “Bessie” starring Queen Latifah. Chung was in the two sequels to “The Hangover” and in Zack Snyder’s “Suckerpunch.” For each, Ting’s film represents a chance to show what fine, relaxed performers they are in lead roles, and each nails the part perfectly.
For a low-budget indie shot in Hong Kong without the ability to shut down streets, “Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong” has the production values of a much more expensive movie.
Opens: February 12, 2016 Theaters, on demand (Gravitas Ventures)
Production: Unbound Feet Productions in association with IXII Prods.
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
Music: Timo Chen
Editor: Danielle Wang
No rating, 79 minutes