Love Lifting: A movie about a female weightlifter? And she’s played by waif-like idol singer Elanne Kong? Who would believe this cinematic combination? Well believe it, because in Love Lifting, director Herman Yau makes his weightlifting heroine into a believable and enjoyable protagonist, and Elanne Kong is genuinely engaging in the role. Co-written by Yau, Yang Yee-Shan (Whispers and Moans) and Yang Ya-Wen, Love Lifting is a solidly inspirational and sometimes too-chipper sports drama that won’t find a very large audience outside of Hong Kong. Credit or blame Herman Yau for that – the director has never been one to overplay a film’s premise, meaning Love Lifting is not a manufactured zero-to-hero tale that will get audiences everywhere cheering in the aisles. The film is, however, worthwhile in its own agreeable, low-key way.
To is a good enough actor that he can do earnest without winking too much, and Elanne Kwong does a fine job in the rather unflattering lead role. This one really should be awful, but somehow Yau pulls it off. It really is a strange film, as although it does use some of the usual mores of the Sports film, everything is overcome by good spirits and hard work, and maybe just a little luck. For 75 minutes of the film all obstacles are introduced and solved, which means it does lack a little in the drama stakes. This last point is quite evident in the last few moment of the film as it cops out completely. The writers decided to hack off the biggest player in the movie so it could dump all its major plot strands in one fell swoop. Li starts intensively training, only to find out one day that Yun is seriously injured in a traffic accident. Before he dies, Yun tells Yi his last wish. Now, Yi is devoted to make Yun’s wish come true.
Yau succeeds because he is wise enough to know we have all seen these kinds of films before, whether it is the underdog sports movie, the fatal beauty, or even the mismatched romance. We all aware enough to understand the mores of these kinds of film, so he wisely decides not to spend too much time on too many little details, instead briskly whisking us through the scenes. International cineastes may not care all that much, as this film will most likely slip beneath your radar, but even the big hurdle that strikes near the end of the film is given little screen time. That’s not to say there are not small moments of deep emotion here, there are, but the film is played in a kind of filmic shorthand – why spend 20 minutes crying when a 3 minute scene can resonate enough the viewer?
Thankfully, the film moves past those events quickly and cleanly, never lingering long enough to hinder the film or the audience. I am pretty certain that a viewer will go one of two ways on this. The lack of real peril and melodrama is going to make a lot of people dismiss this one as lightweight and nothing more than a minor puff piece. The main quabble I have is it doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be. After all, should I rate this film as a sweet natured romance, domestic drama, or competitive sports movie? Either way, Elanne Kwong does a fine job and there is enough material here for me to not curse the Gods that I wasted my time watching it.