Toronto 2014: 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2' review

★★★☆☆
Whilst he may primarily be associated with the stylish Hong Kong gangster picks that have made him his name, director Johnnie To is not averse to turning his hand to lighter matters. Don't Go Breaking My Heart (2011) was one such offering - a likable romantic farce in a manic financial sector with stocks and affections traded with equal zeal. After the enormous success of that film, To has returned to the same stomping ground for the further adventures of the central trio in Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2 (2014). Taking the screwball shenanigans even further, it's unbridled fun that works despite the relationships themselves lacking any real depth below the moxie.

The story picks up a year after the end of the first instalment which [spoiler] saw Zixin (Gao Yuanyuan) choose the architect, Qihong (Daniel Wu) - who constructed a building for her - over her philandering boss, Shen-Ran (Louis Koo). With the happy couple's wedding just weeks away, the situation is complicated again when Zixin gets a new job in the office directly opposite the firm Shen-Ran has just founded. The waters are muddied further when Zixin's boss, financial powerhouse Yang Yang Yang (Miriam Yeung), begins a relationship with the jilted Shen-Ran unaware of past dalliances. Not convoluted enough yet? How about Yang also unknowingly beginning a flirtation with Zixin's brother, Paul (Vic Chou), as they bond over a psychic octopus named Genie (perhaps influenced by the late Paul the octopus).

An incredibly knowing sequel, it plays to its strengths and isn't afraid to recall past events through flashbacks or emulation. The characters are introduced in such a way as to maximise the potential for mistaken identity right through until the climax. Moreover, it does this jokes well and the performers are all have bags of silly fun. As the tension builds and multiple players must make decisions about where their feelings truly lie it does, however, become clear that none of the dilemmas and pairings seem especially convincing. Everyone is chasing one or more partners with few of them evoking much investment in the audience. It doesn't matter a great deal, but one often wants some compelling 'rom' no matter the scale of the absurdity. While To's trademark visual flare is sacrificed here, he still executes the comic sequences with aplomb - not least a chapter in which Shen-Ran must navigate a multitude of female visitors all unaware of each other. Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2 is hardly landmark cinema, but it's offbeat fun and it's hard to go too far wrong with a psychic octopus on your side.

The Toronto International Film Festival takes place from 4-14 September 2014. For more coverage, follow this link.

Ben Nicholson

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