In the tradition of hit-and-miss anthology valentines like "Love Actually" (but with less pandering), Chinese writer-director Chen Sicheng has assembled five interlocking tales in "Beijing Love Story." Each romance focuses on a different stage of life, from teen infatuation through the sometimes-thorny devotion of those long married.
Adapting his TV series of the same name for this big-screen spinoff, Chen has an appealing visual style and deploys a sharp ensemble. The uneven movie benefits especially from the magnetism of Hong Kong stars Tony Leung Ka Fai and Carina Lau in the comic-poignant tale of a middle-age couple whose romantic getaway in Greece hits troubled waters.
The material is most sentimental at opposite ends of the generational spectrum — schoolkids and seniors — but manages in every sequence to balance heavy-handedness with humor and unpredictability.
In the fast-moving opening segment, the director plays a likable young man about to marry his pregnant girlfriend (Tong Liya). Beyond the segment's night-life energy, it sheds light on the pressure for material success in bustling Beijing. From there, Chen segues into a story of the would-be groom's philandering friend, a broad drama that finds its focus in a darker vein, zeroing in on the man's long-suffering wife (Yu Nan).
Some stories drag while others have zing in this anthology; binding them is a compelling sense of cultural identity — the tension between tradition and free-market modernity.
"Beijing Love Story." No MPAA rating; in Mandarin with English and Chinese subtitles. Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes. At AMC Atlantic Times Square 14, Monterey Park; AMC Puente Hills 20, Industry.