I don’t know what is it with me and romantic comedies. For the past few years, I’ve found Hollywood rom-coms tiring and repetitive, but it’s always interesting to see cultural differences through movies, so I might be enjoying Asian rom-coms a little bit more that way. Love is not Blind is a Chinese independent movie that follows a young Beijing wedding planner named Xiao Xian (Bai Baihe, in an indie-darling-making role) who discovers her long-term boyfriend Lu Ran (Guo Jingfei) has been cheating on her with her best friend. In regular rom-com fashion, there would be two paths to take; the first one having Lu Ran fighting back to get back together with Xiao Xian, who’s pretty devastated by her relationship’s failure. In the other, she would meet the true love of her life and would fall madly in love with him forgetting to having ever been heartbroken.
However, Love is not Blind (with its literal title translation of “Lovelorn for 33 Days”) follows Xiao Xian as she starts discovering the world she’s been neglecting in favor of her lover, starting new friendships and finding her self-worth with the aid of her unlikely confidante, Xiao Jian (Wen Zhang), who might be gender-bending to the best style of the Hays days. The movie’s stylistic choices seem to play with Xiao Xian, with a cool color palette predominant throughout the whole film displaying the clean modernity (and maybe even tinge of coldness?) of Beijing in contrast to the honesty and purity of Xiao Xian’s feelings, which never cave into naivety, choosing instead to give its audience golden nuggets of insight into our own relationships. Seriously, despite the miniscule budget (of 9M RMB, roughly $1.5M USD) and all the gloss of the set designs and clean cinematography, the movie has its VERY deep one-liners about the necessity of love.
Whenever you think Love is not Blind might be giving a wrong turn or two, Xiao Xian stops you right there with surprising responses, especially with the storyline with one of her soon-to-be-married clients. Of course, if this is a romantic comedy… whom does Xiao Xian end up with? The answer might be up for debate to some, but Xiao Xian’s co-worker-turned-best-pal is as much a protagonist as her, with Wen Zhang giving Xiao Jian the perfect measure of sass to seem off-the-norm to a perceptive viewer, and enough gentlemanly charm to lure a casual one. It’s interesting — and thrilling — to see a movie like this topping the Chinese box office.
Overall, Love is not Blind is a surprising little gem that, despite lacking the butterflies-in-the-stomach elements of a regular romantic comedy, carries enough punch to linger after the viewer is done watching it, while still delivering some very funny scenes to soften the blow of a break-up as the audience, very much like Xiao Xian, recovers itself from its 33 days of being lovelorn.