The great thing about writer/director Emily Ting’s “It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong” is that it can be enjoyed on more than one level. And yes, that seems to be a catch-all phrase these days when it comes to a movie, but here it rings especially true.
The film wears its influences (the “Before Sunrise” series with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy comes to mind) and its heart on its sleeve, and this is where you can either sit back and enjoy the movie for what it is, or you can get lost in the evocative Hong Kong setting and gorgeous cinematography (courtesy of Josh Silfen). But it’s probably best to do both, because for a first time feature filmmaker, Ting has turned in a solid script as well as using the visual smorgasbord at her disposal.
And while yes, it’s not exactly groundbreaking to watch two attractive leads (in this case Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg) meet in an exotic city, feel an overwhelming attraction, and then feel the screws of fate turn, the setting and the mostly natural situations allow the audience to lose themselves as the pair trek through a locale which is rarely allowed to shine the way it does here.
First, the two leads in question. Chung plays Ruby, a Chinese-American toy designer in town on business who is mostly oblivious to Chinese culture and the wonders of Hong Kong. She bumps into Josh (Greenberg), an American ex-pat who works in finance—only he’d rather be a bohemian writer, not a cog in the wheel of one of the biggest financial centers in the world. Ruby is supposed to meet some friends, only she has no idea where she’s going. Luckily, Josh has been living in the city for years and gladly volunteers to escort Ruby to her destination.
They get to know each other on this walk, drawing each other out (at least on the surface) until they reach the club at which Ruby is supposed to meet her friends. But surprise–they’re having such a good time that they want to continue getting to know each other. And they do, until Josh fesses up that he has a girlfriend—and as a matter of fact, he left her at a bar to walk Ruby around Hong Kong. And this is how their initial meeting ends.
They meet up a year or so later (as young couples always must), and their personal circumstances have now changed. Ruby’s work has brought her to Hong Kong for a long stint, and Josh is now an unemployed writer—something that she had encouraged during their non-date date a year earlier. Ruby is now in a committed relationship, as Josh still is…ah, cruel fate. They end up walking around Hong Kong again, this time with a few more cards on the table.
The setup is simple. Alarmingly so, enough to give you pause to say to yourself, “Is this all there is?” But “Tomorrow” is also beautiful in its simplicity. Allowing these characters to organically deconstruct their own separate relationships as well as their connection to each other and what it could possibly mean to their futures is fascinating to watch. There is also some nice cultural interplay; Ruby and Josh openly discuss race and ethnicity when it comes to Asian women dating white men and the stereotypes that lie within. It’s not preachy–it comes off as an honest conversation. And for anybody who has had an instant attraction to somebody but there just seems to be something in the way, there’s a big identification factor with these two.
The second part of the film’s equation is the Hong Kong setting. It becomes the third character; shot as more than a backdrop but less than an intrusion. It’s an interesting mix, as you get lost in the characters’ conversation, the city recedes, but then it comes back into focus as the story dictates. Shot mostly at night, the city’s lights and open air markets give both a vastness and an intimacy to “Tomorrow.”
Ting has a talent for natural dialogue and relatable situations and with a crisp 80 minute runtime, a nice pace as well. There are very few situations that seem forced, which for a movie that hinges largely on personal entanglements says a lot. As a first time feature filmmaker, Ting has made “It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong” a highly enjoyable and impressively put together film. Sometimes the simplest route is best.