In the Mood for Love

2001

In the Mood for Love

Critics Consensus

This understated romance, featuring good performances by its leads, is both visually beautiful and emotionally moving.

90%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 126

94%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 53,168
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Movie Info

For his first film since the 1997 Hong Kong handover, auteur filmmaker Wong Kar-wai directs this moody period drama about unrequited love that, like his earlier work, swoons with romantic melancholy. Set in a Shanghaiese enclave in Hong Kong in 1962, the film centers on two young couples who rent adjacent rooms in a cramped and crowded tenement. Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) works as a secretary in an export company while her husband's job at a Japanese multinational keeps him away on extended business trips. Across the hall, Chow (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) works as a newspaper editor and is married to a woman who is also frequently out of town. Neither respective spouse is ever shown in full, instead they are shot from the back or obscured by walls and furniture. Li-zhen and Chow soon strike up a cordial -- if tenative -- friendship. Chow begins to suspect that his wife's long absences are not entirely business related when he stops in unannounced at her office to discover that she is not there. Later, a colleague tells him that he saw his wife with another man. The icing on the cake comes when Chow notices that Li-zhen's handbag is identical to his wife's while Li-zhen discovers that Chow is wearing a tie that she gave her husband; it doesn't take long for them to realize that their spouses are sleeping together. Drawn together by shame and anger, Chow and Li-zhen reveal nothing of their discoveries to their partners. While working through their guilt by imagining how their adulterous spouses first hooked up and rehearsing interrogations, the pair slowly fall in love in spite of their determination to uphold their end of their marital vows. ~ Jonathan Crow, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for In the Mood for Love

All Critics (126) | Top Critics (38) | Fresh (113) | Rotten (13)

  • The settings are wilfully drab - narrow corridors, cramped apartments - yet the fragmentary, richly coloured images are dazzling.

    Nov 16, 2018 | Full Review…
  • So skillfully does the director brings us to a state of breathless expectation that when he refuses to deliver the goods he almost seems to have invented a new form of perversion.

    Apr 15, 2014

    David Denby

    New Yorker
    Top Critic
  • In the Mood is a love story told from the point of impact, at the heart, and no conventional resolution could be more profound.

    Apr 15, 2014 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • It's intelligently conceived, exquisitely crafted and flawlessly acted.

    Apr 15, 2014 | Full Review…
  • Further complemented by the gentle lull of Nat King Cole songs, In The Mood For Love casts a dreamy and melancholic spell that remains unbroken long after the closing credits have rolled.

    Apr 15, 2014 | Full Review…

    Scott Tobias

    AV Club
    Top Critic
  • Director Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong's most romantic filmmaker, is known for his excesses, and in that sense the film's spareness represents a bold departure.

    Aug 14, 2012 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for In the Mood for Love

  • Oct 02, 2015
    In the Mood for Love is a very slow, moody, and stylized film. If in "Days of Being Wild" you can feel the humidity, in this one the feeling is like coming into an air conditioned room out of a hot day being in the city and the sense of quiet ease and nice refreshment. That is what the relationship between the main characters feels like in the beginning, and through much of the film. The main tension comes from the fact that things will inevitably change and the question is whether these two people, who seem to deserve more out of life, can get it without becoming undeserving themselves. (And on a side note, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung both look quite beautiful in this film.) Recommended to art lovers and people watchers.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 17, 2012
    It is quite well-known that Wong Kar-wai's filmography is one of great cinematic essence, so as a long-time film fan, I am quite ashamed to say that this is the first film of his that I have ever seen. But what I have felt right at the very moment the film has started is one of immediate admiration. "In the Mood for Love", a film of quiet romantic power, is really not about love at its most denotative sense. Instead, like the later "Lost in Translation", it is a film of how romance transforms into something more than the usual hugs and kisses. Sometimes, it is not strictly eternal love that people look for but simple human connection, and in this film, it was displayed in a way that fully evokes the particular emptiness that asks for it and the gentle emotional force that attempts to fill it up. The film's premise, about two lost souls and their sudden romantic spark after finding out that their respective better halves are cheating on them, is a subtle observation about the pain of extramarital affairs. And with Wong Kar-wai's choice of not showing the two characters' cheating husband and wife's faces, the film takes on a more absolute form. They know that they wouldn't be together for a long time, but they are aware of the feelings that will permeate across time years after they part ways. And in this brief time that they share together, how comforting it is to feel that all of it shall last forever. But wait, how about their marriages? Isn't this a form of cheating as well? Well, maybe that is the case, but Wong Kar-wai highlights the fact (through precise cinematographic compositions and haunting musical score) that their romance is in no way a form of transgression; hell, it's not even romantic revenge per se. Instead, it is quite simply because of human impulse, of our tendencies to look for a hand to hold on to in our perennial struggle to find answers to our questions, and of our adherence to the concept of love no matter the emotional price we may subsequently pay. We are born to love, but hell, we are also born to be hurt; "In the Mood for Love" dwells somewhere in the middle. Stars Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (playing Mr. Chow) and Maggie Cheung (playing Mrs. Chan) are evidently perfect in their roles. In the film's earlier moments, their body language perfectly conveys their utter indifference to one another. But as the film progresses, especially at the moment when they both realize that the love they have found is something that cannot be cherished for a longer time (their husband and wife are merely on a business trip in Japan, presumably consummating their own secret love), their faces show something that suggests contemplative sadness. They hate to see each other go but they nonetheless accept it. They both hate to cut their romance short but they know that it is wrong to prolong it even more. They both know that they need each other but they just can't continue on doing so. And in one of the film's most powerful scenes, we see how they rehearse their final farewells and the subsequent pain that comes along with it. Saying goodbye is indeed a hard thing to do especially if the one you're uttering it to is the final person you'll ever wish to be on its receiving end. It is from this complex set-up that I was able to see through Wong Kar-wai's emotional maturity as a filmmaker. He is quite aware of the fact that human connection always arises from the most unexpected of situations and that love is a mercurial aspect of life that's easy to feel yet slides so easily from the palm of the hands. He is also quite articulate about the sheer transience of time and its role in reminding us that moments may fade but feelings just wouldn't. "In the Mood for Love", an artful amalgamation of style and substance, is a symphonic film about the unpredictability of love, the persistence of memory, and the gentle, bittersweet pain of harboring a beautiful secret. Welcome to my film-watching consciousness, Mr. Wong Kar-wai.
    Ivan D Super Reviewer
  • Aug 21, 2012
    I've seen rave after rave about this film, but its shorthand descriptions left me shrugging. I finally watched it anyway, and felt like my initial instincts were correct. For me, "In the Mood for Love" has two notable features. One is that the sets, costumes, hairstyles and even the film stock add up to a marvelous simulation of the story's 1962 setting -- you'd never guess this was a contemporary film. The other intriguing element is how minimalist the storytelling is. Events are pared down to the fewest strokes possible, and some events are deleted altogether. (Inevitably, the abrupt jumps in time evoke early Godard.) Beyond this, it's a dry, unconsummated romance between two people whose reserved personalities don't generate much emotional pull. And a certain string-ensemble cue is so exasperatingly overused that I felt like I was watching the DVD's menu-screen loop and couldn't find the remote control. The lead actress (Maggie Cheung) is a striking beauty, but this isn't enough to recommend the film.
    Eric B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 24, 2011
    I loved seeing how many beautiful dresses she owned! That was probably my favorite part of the movie. It was fairly slow, and it felt a lot longer than an hour and a half.
    Erin C Super Reviewer

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