Turn Left, Turn Right: A Review

I first saw Turn Left, Turn Right in 2003 when it first came out. I got it on VCD and kept it in my collection because I just loved the premise of having two people living in the same block , living parallel lives and not knowing that they were destined for each other. The strength of the story, which was adapted from the novel A Chance At Sunshine by author Jimmy Liao, was that it made people believe in the concept of fate, and that there is a plan for each and every one.

The film is a story about a struggling violinist John Liu (Takeshi Kaneshiro, House of Flying Dragons, Tempting Heart) and a literary translator Eve Choi (Gigi Leung, Fat Choi Spirit, Sky of Love) who live in two apartment buildings in the same block and whose units are separated only by a paper thin wall. Their lives are often reflections of one another — they are both talented and dedicated to their craft, they are both struggling to make the rent and they both want something better. After missing each other countless times, their paths finally cross when they decide to eat lunch at the park. They meet, discover that they liked each other way before when they were students from different schools on a field trip at the same theme park, spend a glorious afternoon together just talking and hanging out, and exchange numbers and vow to call. However, fate has nastier plans for them as their numbers get washed out by a sudden downpour, leaving them with only the first number on the paper to go on. Worse, they fail to get each other’s real names and only have their student numbers from way before in which to go on. The title Turn Left, Turn Right is drawn from the character’s failure to meet in simple terms, choosing always to go in different directions when all they really want is to be together.

I liked the film because it illustrates how simple or how difficult it could really be to find the right one. The fact that the two leads were living right next to each other was all the more tragic because if they had only taken the time to look out of their windows, they could have found each other much sooner. Their efforts to spend days next to the telephone trying different number combinations to the point of exhaustion was touching and endearing, tugging at the heartstrings when it was plain with every separate scene that they were perfect for each other.

The lines in the movie were often repetitive as both Kaneshiro and Leung said the same things almost identically in their different conversations with other people. They also made identical decisions at the same time without having to consult the other. But the repetitiveness, while tedious in other films, was actually essential to further establishing the invisible connection linking the two, despite the many (and sometimes annoying) roadblocks hampering their way. I also liked the reference to a poem Love at First Sight (Milosc od pierwszego wejrzenia) written by Dutch poetess Wyslawa Symborska, which served as a framework of the story because the lines in the piece could just as well be their own love story.

What truly made the film effective, in my opinion was the believability of the two leads’ portrayal, the urgency in which they sought to find each other and their loyalty to each other despite their rather brief encounters. They were so believable, in fact, that the question in the audience’s minds would have to be whether or not they eventually find each other but when and how they would.