In her debut feature, writer/director Emily Ting demonstrates a preternaturally sure hand over the material, which may have been aided by the fact that the film was inspired by autobiographical events. The female lead of “It’s Already Tomorrow In Hong Kong” is a toy designer, an Asian-American in Hong Kong, as was Ting, who mined her personal experiences and knowledge of the city to inform the screenplay. The experience serves her well, as she creates an immersive portrait of Hong Kong alongside a “Before Sunrise“-style romantic tale of ex-pats connecting under the neon lights of the city.
Real-life couple Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg are Ruby and Josh, American ex-pats who meet one night outside a bar. He offers directions to her, which turns into an escort to the bar. Along the way, they chat about life and careers, he gives her the insider view of the city, and she invites him for a drink, blowing off her friends. It’s clear to anyone with eyes that there’s an undeniable connection between them, but he drops a bomb at the end of their encounter: his girlfriend. She’s understandably upset, their connection instantly immolated. She’s leaving the next day and it seems they are never to meet again.
Randomly, a year later, they bump into each other on a ferry in Hong Kong — she’s moved there for work — and once again they are off: strolling the nighttime streets, eating, drinking, dancing, and adventuring their way through the city, swept away by all there is to explore, and each other’s company. This time, the cards are on the table, his girlfriend, her boyfriend, and they speak frankly, if a bit around the elephant in the room: who is really the right partner for them?
There’s an easy repartee between Chung and Greenberg, and the script feels authentic and lived in, if a bit light. It sounds like how contemporary 30-somethings would talk to each other, and it’s certainly clever, if not exactly humorous. The problem is that there doesn’t really seem to be a strong sense of conflict. Surely, there are their other relationships, but neither character actually seems conflicted about it, except for their sense of social morals. There are a couple of moments where the dialogue dips out of reality and spells things out too much to be plausible, relying on clichés (no one actually says “emotional cheating” outside of therapy, right?).
However, the film is beautifully executed, with gorgeous cinematography and a lovely sense of rhythm, long walking and talking steadicam shots juxtaposed with environment-establishing shots of the nighttime city. The editing, sound design, and music, both diegetic and non, weave together a sensory tapestry of sound and light. The camaraderie between Greenberg and Chung is relaxed and comfortable, if not crackling with sexual tension. It will be fascinating to see Ting tackle other subject matter, because it’s clear that she knows this milieu inside and out, but also demonstrates an assuredness in her filmmaking.
“It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong” goes down light and easy, a pleasant, if easily evaporated, visit to this world. Regardless, it’s a strong debut for writer/director Ting, and a film that many can enjoy for its exotic locale and take on modern relationship questions. [B]