Film and Plot Synopsis
In this critically acclaimed film set in 1962 Hong Kong, Chow Mo-wan is a journalist and Shanghai expatriate who moves into a vacant room in an apartment with his wife. At the same time, Su Li-zhen (Mrs. Chan) moves into a vacant room in the apartment next door with her husband. Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan become close with one another after they discover that their mutual spouses are engaged in an affair with each other. However, the couple soon becomes romantically linked themselves without any sexual engagements and discover that they are their mutual loves of their lives.
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‘In The Mood For Love’ Movie Summary
Both Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan’s spouses spend much of their time away from home, with Mr. Chan often working out of the country. At the same time, Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan’s landlords, Mr. Koo (Chan Man-Lei) and Mrs. Suen (Rebecca Pan), often spend time playing all night mahjong games with their neighbors. The resulting activity leaves Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan often alone in their rooms. Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan are pleasant to each other but keep a respectful distance from one another.
Eventually, both Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan learn that their spouses are being unfaithful to them. Even worse, their spouses are involved in an affair with each other. Mr. Chow eventually has a meal with Mrs. Chan where the couple discuss their mutual knowledge of their spouses’ infidelity. The two become friends, and then ultimately, they begin to become something more to each other. Mr. Chow asks for Mrs. Chan to help him in writing a martial arts serial which results in the two spending additional time together.
The couple’s increased interaction draws the attention of their landlords. Ultimately, Mrs. Chan becomes trapped in Mr. Chow’s bedroom one night when Mr. Koo’s unexpectedly hosts an all-night game in his apartment. Mrs. Chan is forced to spend the night until everyone goes to sleep the next day. As a result, Mr. Chow decides to rent a hotel room where the couple can work together without fear of being discovered.
As weeks go by, the couple begins to understand that they have developed feelings for each other although they never allow the relationship to become physical. They often play act as their spouses and wonder how their cheating spouses became romantic. Their affection for each other often goes unspoken, but their glances and body language detail a hidden passion. Eventually, Mr. Chow decides to take a job in Singapore, and he asks Mrs. Chan to go with him. She agrees, but on the day that he leaves, Mrs. Chan arrives too late to the hotel and Mr. Chow leaves without her.
The following year while in Singapore, Mr. Chow relates a story to his hard living friend and fellow journalist, Ah Ping (Siu Ping Lam). In the story, set in olden times, when a person had a secret, they would go to the top of a mountain, make a hole into a tree, and whisper the secret into the hollow and cover it with mud. Not long after, Mrs. Chan arrives in Singapore and visit’s Mr. Chow’s apartment while he is at work. She calls Mr. Chow at his job but remains silent when he picks up the phone. Later, Mr. Chow returns to his apartment and realizes that Mrs. Chan visited his home after he finds one of her lipstick-stained cigarette butts in his ashtray.
Three years later in Hong Kong, Mrs. Chan visits her now former landlord Mrs. Suen. Mrs. Suen is emigrating to the United States to be with her daughter, and Mrs. Chan inquires about whether the apartment would be available to rent. Ultimately, Mrs. Chan moves into the apartment. Sometime later, Mr. Chow returns to Hong Kong and stops in to visit his former landlords. He is informed by the new owner of the apartment that the Koos emigrated to the Philippines. Mr. Chow asks about the Suen family next door. The new owner informs Mr. Chow that the Suen moved away and the apartment is now occupied by a woman and her son. Mr. Chow does not realize that the woman is Mrs. Chan, who is still married and now has a child with her philandering husband.
The film ends during the Vietnam War. Mr. Chow travels to Cambodia and visits the temples of Angkor Wat. He finds a small hole next to the door of a temple. Mr. Chow leans in and whispers something into the hole before plugging up the gap with some mud, implying that he keeps the secret of his love for Mrs. Chan to himself even after all the years apart.