First Love and Other Pains

Ladymol's Review

I didnít even finish this one; it really is very tedious. The story is almost cute: a writer who is trying to write a play called First Love and Other Pains, meets a young man who wants him as his first love. However, the acting is so wooden that thereís more chemistry in the furniture than the men. Although the box says things like ďthey fuck in the bathtubĒ all you actually see is a glimpse through a door of someone undressing. In fact, you see a flash of the cover on the box. Thereís not even a kiss: the one there is fades to black before touch.

Set entirely in Hong Kong, in Chinese and English it looks as if itís been shot on a poor quality video.

Donít bother with this one.

Cerisaye's Review

Sweet 19 year old Hong Kong student Mark has a crush on his professor, Hugh, a depressed alcoholic Englishman of around 50 whose play canít find a publisher.† Mark follows him to the theatre to see it performed. He knows what he wants, and sets out to get it.

They meet socially, and get to know each other.† One drunken night Hugh gives in to temptation and takes Mark to bed.† He thinks itís a mistake.† But Mark knows heís gay and has no regrets.† We see the story from his POV. †Heís bright and articulate, clearly well adjusted.† Hugh is the one being pursued.† Mark is unashamed about his feelings, and sees nothing wrong with their relationship.†

Hugh never got over his first love, a waiter he met the summer he was 16, the unhappy affair explored in his play.† Heís drifting through life, afraid to risk getting hurt again. †Now Hugh has writerís block and university authorities arenít sympathetic.† Hugh doesnít seem bothered whether he has a future. Can Mark turn things around or is it already too late?† Their relationship reminded me of Dave Brandstetter & Cecil another unlikely pairing where a youth from an entirely different background brings joy to an older man in much need of loving.

This is a gentle story, emotionally engaging despite very obvious limitations of budget and imperfect execution, approaching a controversial subject through sympathetically drawn characters.† The boy playing Mark is good, very natural, but Hugh is stilted, though that could be to show reticence. At under an hour long itís more like TV drama than film.† The cover uses sex to sell the movie, showing Mark suggestively naked beside Hugh in the bath.† But thatís as explicit as it gets.† Sex isnít the issue.† Itís about recognising love when you see it and seizing your chance, defying barriers of gender, age, race or social background, put in place by societyís narrow-minded prejudice.†

This film has a story to tell with a positive message and developed characters, a likeable romance drama.† I got more from it than some longer movies reviewed here.† Its biggest weakness comes from short length that doesnít give time to explore issues with any depth.† Early on Hughís class pointedly discuss Maurice: itís okay for gay stories to have happy ever afters, if thereís real love and commitment, deeper than sex and strong enough to withstand external pressures.† Worth a look for a thought provoking take on inter-generational, inter-racial and cross-cultural love.†