Ella is a divorced Chinese American taxi driver who spends her days ferrying people around the roads of Sausalito, San Francisco. After work, she spends time with her 8-year old son, Scott. Ella meets Mike at Sky House, an infamous pick-up joint. Awkward strangers at first, they nonetheless find passion and what they want in each other.
At first glance, it’s a real pleasure to see a Hong Kong mainstream film and potential hit that is not only gorgeously photographed and beautifully edited, but is also a film about grown-ups, for grown-ups.
Mike, wealthy thirty-something San Franciscan internet designer and search engine designer, meets Ellen, a thirty-something divorcee, mother, cab driver, and urban artist. After meeting an a bar, the unlikely couple sleep together, fall in love, overcoming their differences and incompatibilities. They thereupon discover that said differences return to drive them apart. Cheung has developed in the ’90s into a great actress, someone who is always fascinating to watch. When she’s in full flight, I don’t really want anyone getting in the way. This time, full marks to Leon Lai: he is not an obstacle as an actor. This is the best, most successfully sustained acting work of his career to date. Unfortunately, what a non-entity of a character Mike is: nothing more than a version of that staple of the modern romance genre, the narcissistic male as never-grown-up boy. On the plus side – and this is a giant plus – Andrew Lau (as both director and cinematographer) certainly knows how to shoot Cheung, with a skillfully varied array of off-centred close-ups, canted framings, and mixes of natural and artificial light. Not only that, but he knows how to cut, manipulate, and edit shots with an infectious rhythm. Even when seeming to coast in genre-entertainment mode, Sausalito shows Hong Kong cinema’s tangible pleasures, which are, after all, the reason many of us keep on going back to its theatres for more.