A Melancholy Love Story in Happy Together – film review.

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For the final review in this series for LGBTQ+ History month 2022, Lydia Cooper provides a review of ‘Happy Together’ a film that follows a struggling queer relationship.

Lai Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung) in a shot from Happy Together. Dir. Wong Kar-Wai, The Criterion Collection, 1997. [Description: A close-up film shot of a topless man who is covering his face with his arm. There is a mirrored reflection in the background.]

Wong Kar-Wai’s 1997 masterpiece Happy Together is a film about a gay couple from Hong Kong who have travelled to Buenos Aires but are kept apart by the conflict and toxicity of their relationship.

Wong Kar-Wai’s trademark style comes through with time lapses, snappy jump cut editing and repeated uses of song motifs throughout the film. Many of the scenes between Lai Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung) and Ho Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) take place in the small room that Lai is renting and this tiny room and the building it is in, contain some of the best sequences in the film – the dancing scene in the kitchen is one of my favourite scenes of any film.

All the actors are great but the stand out is Tony Leung as Lai, who throughout the film is struggling with his relationship with Ho – which is filled with conflict and jealousy – and the loneliness and struggle of being a migrant without much money. Every performance in the film is organic but Leung’s in particular forms the emotional centre of the film.

Unlike a lot of films centring on queer couples Happy Together does not rely on stereotypes and shows the relationship between Lai and Ho with depth and detail. Despite the film being only just over an hour and a half long, we feel like we know them intimately. It’s also nice to see a film where the two main characters have genuine chemistry and the sexual tension throughout the film is palpable – making the progression of their relationship throughout the film even more heart-breaking and realistic.

Further Viewing on Kanopy:

Desert Hearts (1985) – Dir. Donna Deitch

Beau Travail(1999) – Dir. Claire Denis

Thank you to both Lydia Cooper and Aoife Raynell for this engaging series of film reviews for LGBTQ+ HM 2022, following the theme ‘Politics in Art: The Arc is Long’. If you have something you’d like to share, please let us know at edi@uwe.ac.uk.

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