In Wong Kar Wai (wáng jiā wèi 王家卫)'s debut English language film, My Blueberry Nights (lán méi zhī yè 蓝莓之夜), the internationally acclaimed director takes his audience on a dramatic journey across the distance between heartbreak and a new beginning. Seting out on a journey across America, leaving behind a life of memories, a dream and a soulful new friend, all is for the search of something to mend the broken heart. Through individuals, viewers witness the true depths of loneliness and emptiness but hopeful. As the line goes: "It wasn’t so hard to across that street after all, It all depends on the one you’re waiting for on the other side.
Plot Jeremy is from Manchester who owns a small New York City cafe that becomes a haven for Elizabeth as she tries to recover emotionally following the end of an affair, when Elizabeth finds out from him that her boyfriend has dined in the cafe with another woman. She finds comfort in the blueberry pie he bakes daily despite the fact none of his customers ever order it. Two become close. She gives her keys to Jeremy, in case her ex-boyfriend comes to collect them.
Elizabeth, now calling herself Lizzie, travels by bus to Memphis, Tennessee. She takes two jobs, in a cafe and in a bar, to save money to buy a car. She regularly sends postcards to Jeremy without revealing where she lives or works and, although he tries to locate her by calling all the restaurants in the area, he fails to find her. He later on decides to send out postcards to any restaurants she may be to find her.
One of Lizzie's regulars at both jobs is local policeman Arnie Copeland, an alcoholic who cannot accept the fact his wife Sue Lynne has left him and is flaunting her freedom by openly socializing with other men. He confesses to Lizzie his many attempts at achieving sobriety have ended in failure. After drunkenly threatening Sue Lynne with his gun, he crashes his car into a post and dies. Lizzie comforts Sue Lynne, and the next day Sue Lynne leaves town, giving Lizzie a large tip to put towards her car.
Heading west, Elizabeth, now calling herself Beth, gets another waitress job at a casino in a small town in Nevada. Here we are introduced to Leslie, an inveterate poker player who has lost all her money. Beth lends Leslie her savings for gambling after Leslie promises to either win the game, or give Beth her car. When she does lose, she fulfills her promise by giving Beth the car, but asks her to drive her to Las Vegas so she can borrow money from her father, whom she has not seen in a long time.
Leslie gets a call, answered by Beth, from the hospital to inform her that her father is dying. Leslie believes the call is simply a ruse to lure her home, but upon arrival in Vegas she discovers her father died the previous night. Leslie wants to keep the car because it was really her father's.And then confesses that she has lied about losing the game. She pays Elizabeth the money she had originally promised, and Beth buys a car.
Elizabeth returns to Manhattan and, discovering her ex-boyfriend has vacated his apartment and moved on with his life. She crosses the street to the cafe, and discovers Jeremy has been waiting for her, and has a space reserved for her at the counter. As she eats a slice of blueberry pie, Elizabeth realizes her feelings for him are reciprocated.
"Goodbye doesn’t always mean the end, sometimes it means a new beginning.”
E:"Or maybe one of them run off with someone else."
J: "Maybe the feelings just run away."
E:"Why didn’t you go looking for her?"
J:"She said if I ever got lost, I just stay one place, so she’ll find me."
"If I throw these keys away, those doors will be closed forever."
"I just looked up at the window, I realized, I was on the wrong side ."
"How do you say goodbye to someone you can’t imagine living without?
I didn’t say goodbye.
I didn’t say anything.
I just walked away.
At the end of that night, I decided to take the longest way across the street."
"It took me nearly a year to get here. It wasn’t so hard to across that street after all, It all depends on the one you’re waiting for on the other side. "
• Norah Jones: Elizabeth/Lizzie/Beth
Despite being best known as a musician, Wong gives Norah Jones the lead. Jones struggles as the film opens, perhaps bearing the weight of her inexperience, but as the journey begins she settles into the role, never treading Oscar-worthy waters but nevertheless providing an engaging anchor for the film's emotion.
• Jude Law: Jeremy
• David Strathairn: Arnie Copeland
• Rachel Weisz: Sue Lynne Copeland
• Natalie Portman: Leslie
This is Wong’s first English language movie. The language barrier is an issue. Subtitled films can be hard work for the general moviegoer and when combined with Wong's tendency to suck every ounce of emotion from his audience, it's often that his movies are simply too inaccessible for most. But it's clear that it is the emotional heart of his films and not the language they're made in, that makes them a difficult viewing experience.
The gorgeous cinematography, handled by Darius Khondji, is about as rapturous as that in any of Wong's movies, the last two of which could each qualify as the decade’s very finest. The initial scene, for example, is set in a cramped cafe. It's shot around door jambs and through windows, with a camera that's bobbing around more often than not. The approach is intoxicating. It immediately establishes the mood of bruised romanticism that has defined the director's films to date. As for the most important scene: the kiss. In pursuit of Perfection, Wong makes it 150 times, where only subtle differences can be found.
Wong’s intoxicating style never lets up. Following the tone set in the first sequence, subsequent scenes see the director experimenting with different ways to fragment the frame or expressively occlude our vision. Slow-motion sequences and flattering lighting make everything look better than reality ever could. The soundtrack sweeps as pop songs repeat. Smoke swirls around a series of beautiful faces. Ultimately, My Blueberry Nights is prettier than any romantic comedy. Showing somewhat lovely pleasures that it manages to offer, Everyone should flounder as beautifully as Wong has here.
A.O. Scott of the New York Times called the settings "wildly unrealistic" and added, "The smoky Tennessee juke joint and the cute little Manhattan bakery-cafe look like theme restaurants catering to the tourist trade, and even the highways snaking through the mountains and deserts have the inauthentic glow of rental-car advertisements. Mr. Wong and his cinematographer, Darius Khondji, make America look so pretty that you may have trouble recognizing it." He continued, "For this director a sense of place is useful only insofar as it conjures a state of feeling, and geographical coordinates are, above all, indices of atmosphere and mood. I am more inclined to think that in his recent work Mr. Wong caters to a persistent appetite for luxury, for an unabashed, free-floating glamour that can be hard to find in movies these days.”
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle observed, "The movie's overall story is modest, and if it were any longer the film might start to drag. The nice thing about Wong is that, like a good gambler, he knows when to bet the farm and when to hold back. Most of the time, he plays it straight, and other times he will speed up the action into a kind of blur, to indicate time passing, or he'll fade out and back into the same shot, as though to indicate renewed focus. Everything he does re-creates a state of mind. It's such a relief to realize he's doing everything for a reason and not to show off."
Todd McCarthy of Variety called the film "as much a trifle as its title suggests" and added, "Its ambition and accomplishment remain modest in the extreme, in the Mood for Love, in its moody melancholy, claustrophic settings and highly decorative shooting style. But while the actors' dialogue delivery is perfectly natural, the aphoristic philosophical nuggets Wong favors sound banal and clunky in this context, leaving the film thematically in the shallow end of the pool. Additionally, the road movie potential of the film's second half feel significantly under-realized."
Awards and Nominations
Wong Kar Wai was nominated for the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and for Best Foreign Film at the Cinema Writers Circle Awards in Spain.