Time is relative in Chen Yu-hsun’s quirky romantic comedy.
“Sixty seconds in a minute. Is a second the same duration for everyone?”
Hsiao-chi always seems to be moving too quickly in life: laughing at jokes too soon, or blinking just as a camera goes off. It’s made her a bit of an outcast in life and though she seems to enjoy her job as a post office clerk, her love life has never really flourished. There is one man who seems interested in her, bus driver A Tai (Liu Kuan-ting), who comes into the post office every day to buy a single stamp. One evening, Hsiao-chi decides to covertly join in a dance class in the park, taught by the charismatic and handsome Wen-sen (Duncan Chow), and afterwards they seem to hit it off.
In fact, things go so well that Wen-sen invites Hsiao-chi to partake in the Valentine’s Day activities in town that coming Sunday. They spend a bit of time together, and seem to click really well. When Sunday comes, Hsiao-chi catches the bus to go to town, but in an instant finds herself suddenly back in bed, on Monday, having mysteriously missed the entire day.
My Missing Valentine’s premise is immediately fascinating. It takes a minute or two to fully get going, but once the central conflict is introduced the pace is picked up and it becomes a tonne of fun to watch unfold. The opening is necessary to tell us more about Hsiao-chi, as a good chunk of the film depends on us liking her and caring about what happened to her date. So it’s interesting to note that the mystery is solved relatively quickly. I was expecting it to last the entirety of the film, or at least 80 of its 120 minutes. Yet around the forty minute mark we get a flashback sequence that kicks off the explanation as to why Hsiao-chi lost day.
And with that comes a complete switch of protagonist. I won’t talk in too much detail, because it was fun to see it all unravel in genuinely surprising ways, but it’s a shame that the focus is taken away from our lead and onto someone else, and for such a long period of time. That said, the trailer I saw seemed to focus less on Hsaio-chi than I am now, so perhaps the information you have going in changes the way you see the story. Regardless, the central protagonist does shift and the characters who we now have to focus on end up with a bit of an uphill struggle, as they now have to convince us they’re as worthy of our time.
That doesn’t matter too much because everyone is just as joyous to watch as their cast mates and puts in very funny performances (allowing us to brush past some of the more morally questionable moments). Thanks to director Chen Yu-hsun’s quirky style – such as pixelating the radio DJ, as well as the absolutely perplexing gecko scene – we’re never fully allowed to get comfortable. It’s very easy to get swept up in the moment whenever these curveballs happen thanks to an adorkable cast and a director who knows how to get the most from them.
Despite a few odd moments – such as the particulars of A Tai and Hsiao-chi’s relationship especially considering how aware it seems to be of women’s issues – the story takes you along for a good, enjoyable ride, quickly solving its core mystery but giving you plenty more to take in for the rest of its runtime. The stopped time section is one of the film’s more clever aspects, and every time I think it’s painted itself into a corner, the movie finds a way to deliver. My Missing Valentine is a fun romantic comedy with enough touching moments, strange pieces of fantasy fiction and funny moments to make even the most stone-hearted audiences smile.
Verdict: Refreshingly eccentric and silly in the right ways, My Missing Valentine might be shallow and odd in places, but it’s having a great time throughout.
Overall entertainment: 7/10
Creepy moments made charming by a good cast: 3/10
Life hack: Buy one fish stick – get unlimited soup!
Missing dad payoff: Surprisingly touching
End credits song: Delightful!
Setting: If Valentines is on a Sunday, that means this movie takes place in 2021 or 2016
My Missing Valentine (2020)
Also known as: 消失的情人節
Director: Chen Yu-hsun
Writer: Chen Yu-hsun
Patty Lee – Yang Hsiao-chi
Liu Kuan-ting – A Tai
Duncan Chow – Liu Wen-sen
Joanne Missingham – Ye Pei-wen
Ayugo Huang – Yang Hsiao-chi’s father