On Screen China: Director Xue Xiaolu’s ‘Book of Love‘ Aims for Rom-Com Record

  • CFI sees new film scoring 6 out of 10 in the Chinese marketplace
  • Director Xue Xiaolu is first director whose film debuted at over RMB 100 million
  • Xue reunites actors Tang Wei and Wu Xiubo, whose roles helped Finding Mr. Right
Book of Love stars Tang Wei (L) and Wu Xiubo (R) with director Xue Xiaolu (Mtime)

Book of Love stars Tang Wei (L) and Wu Xiubo (R) flank director Xue Xiaolu (Mtime)

By and large public holidays in China are reserved for new local language releases and can be considered unofficial blackout periods for imports. So far in 2016 My Beloved Bodyguard and Chongqing Hotpot dominated the Tomb Sweeping Holiday in early April, and Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid obliterated box office records over February’s Chinese New Year period.

This weekend brings the three-day Labor Day Holiday (五一档), and with it come several high-profile domestic pictures including frontrunner Book of Love, a spiritual sequel to 2013’s Finding Mr. Right, the highest-grossing romantic film of all-time. Book of Love may prove to be the only legitimate challenge to The Jungle Book’s two week reign at the top of the box office charts.

Below, CFI takes a look at director Xu Xiaolu’s latest foray into the Chinese box office:

Book of Love (北京遇上西雅图之不二情书)
China Distribution: EDKO Beijing Distribution Co., Ltd (安乐(北京)电影发行有限公司)
US Distribution: Chopflix/Magnum Films

CFI Score: 7/10

Book of Love reunites director Xue Xiaolu, actress Tang Wei (Lust, Caution) and actor Wu Xiubo following the record-breaking box office success of their 2013 romance Finding Mr. Right, which grossed RMB 519 million ($82.7 million).

Xue’s Finding Mr. Right was inspired by Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle, right down to the nail-biting climax — a will-they or won’t-they rendezvous on the viewing deck of the Empire State Building. (They do, of course). And perhaps taking a page from Ephron’s follow-up You’ve Got Mail, Book of Love isn’t a direct sequel to its predecessor, rather a spiritual one utilizing the same leads but telling a brand new story.

Book of Love follows the long-distance relationship between Jiao Ye (Tang Wei) — a public relations manager at a Macao hotel who time and time again has met difficulties in her personal life but nonetheless pushes forward in the pursuit of love, and Daniel (Wu Xiubo) — a quick-witted, smooth-talking Seattle real estate broker who is trying to take advantage of the upsurge in overseas Chinese buying property abroad but deep down feels like he is living a meaningless existence. Will they or won’t they meet up? (They will, of course). The two initially connect based on their mutual affection of the novel 84 Charing Cross Road — itself a tale of star-crossed lovers corresponding by hand between New York and London.

Book of Love is exactly the kind of film that Chinese audiences, especially women, eat up these days. And while romantic films will probably never reach the heights of effects-driven family films (ie. Monster Hunt — also distributed by EDKO and produced by Jiang Zhiqiang) or comedies (ie. Lost in Hong Kong, Jianbing Man), director Xue’s Finding Mr Right and, by extension, this follow-up are at the forefront of the genre, utilizing the familiar beats that made American romantic-comedies of the 1990s so popular in China, but also tapping into modern Chinese urban issues such as identity, emigration, and middle-aged romance.

CFI predicts Book of Love will easily surpass its predecessor at the box office and that director Xue once again will set a new standard for Chinese romance films. Early estimates on Friday show Book of Love opening strongly in first place with RMB 112 million ($17.3). Xue is the first Chinese woman director whose film debuted with over RMB 100 million.