Film Review: ‘It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong’

'It's Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong'

Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg are no match for Jesse and Celine in this 'Before Sunrise'-indebted romance.

Not every New York gangster film has to be the equal of “The Godfather,” and plenty of directors have made exorcism movies outside the shadow of William Friedkin. So it certainly ought to be possible to make a film about two loquacious strangers gradually falling in love while ambling around a foreign city for a night without drawing unfavorable comparisons to “Before Sunrise.” Yet first-time writer-director Emily Ting’s “It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong” isn’t quite up to the task, and this earnest, slight romance doesn’t generate enough sparks to overcome the anxiety of its obvious influence. But as a simple valentine to Hong Kong’s expat nightlife, the film makes for charming, breezy viewing, and the director shows promise going forward.

In contrast with Jesse and Celine’s initial existential gauntlet, “It’s Already Tomorrow’s” central thirtysomethings cross paths under rather prosaic terms. Josh (Bryan Greenberg) is having a smoke outside a bar when he spies Ruby (Jamie Chung) struggling to find directions to her next destination, and he offers to accompany her there himself.

While both are Americans, Josh has been living in Hong Kong for a decade while working at an investment bank; Ruby, a stuffed-animal designer, is just in town for a quick business trip. The two hit it off immediately as they walk, talk and eventually begin to flirt. Making a pit stop for drinks, they discuss their ambitions and careers, with Ruby urging Josh to follow his dreams of quitting banking to become a writer. Just as things are starting to get interesting, a key miscommunication breaks the spell, and they awkwardly part ways.

A year later, the two run into each other again on a ferry. Ruby is now living in Hong Kong, while Josh — who’s since traded his crisp suit-and-tie for a beard, a messenger bag and a Murakami paperback — is having a go at being an unemployed novelist. They make amends for their earlier unpleasantness and pick up where they left off, visiting a crab joint and a fortune teller, all the while trying to dance around the fact that both have offscreen significant others.

Ting’s screenplay gives them plenty to talk about, from East-West relationship stereotypes to homesickness, finance and “Seinfeld,” and though their dialogue feels natural, it’s rarely particularly insightful. Lead actors Chung and Greenberg are apparently a real-life couple, and clearly have no issues generating basic chemistry, but there doesn’t seem to be much binding their characters beyond immediate attraction, no sense that a once-in-a-lifetime connection is being forged or slipping away.

Indeed, even at their most digressive, the freewheeling conversations in the “Before” trilogy were always imbued with deeper tensions, of innocence vs. experience, desire vs. memory, the heart vs. the head. “It’s Already Tomorrow” has a clearer narrative arc than any of those three films, yet the stakes feel comparatively featherweight. On the whole, these characters just seem like average people on an unusual date, and the film’s hurried attempts to introduce real complications for them come across as a bit unearned.

Ting nonetheless has a great feel for Hong Kong. Shooting almost entirely outdoors at night, she and d.p. Josh Silfen capture the city’s washes of neon in crisp, warmly saturated tones, and she manages to keep the vibe intimate even when Ruby and Josh are trudging through gargantuan crowds. A two-minute Steadicam shot along the water and some deceptively simple staging on a jittery city bus both demonstrate sharp filmmaking instincts, and as long as the director’s next project gives her more interesting characters with more interesting things to say, her skills could be put to great use.

Film Review: 'It's Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong'

Reviewed online, Los Angeles, June 11, 2015. (In Los Angeles Film Festival – competing.) Running time: 78 MIN.


An Unbound Feet Prods. presentation in association with IXII Prods. Produced by Sophia Shek, Emily Ting. Executive producers, Bryan Greenberg, Jamie Chung.


Directed, written by Emily Ting. Camera (color), Josh Silfen; editor, Danielle Wang; music, Timo Chen; music supervisor, Rob Lowry; production designer, Haley Keim; sound, Dominic Yip; supervising sound editors, Jesse Pomeroy, Paul Stanley; re-recording mixer, Andy Hays; assistant director, Kaspar Wan.


Jamie Chung, Bryan Greenberg.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 10

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Michael Rosenbaum says:

    This may be based partially on the directors life. if so, i think she made a critical error. having a cute asian girl hooking up with a cute white guy, in an asian country, where the white guy knows the terrain better than her, and has a more powerful social position, reeks of racist/cultural stereotyping. The director lived in hong kong for 5 years helping her father run a toy business. i would have done it this way: Chinese American man, running a small business back home, goes to hong kong for business, and gets lost, runs into white american female, living in hong kong for years, very successful, but dissatisfied and thinking about becoming a writer. similar awkward connection ensues, but with the man unsure of his status with her, who may be a little racist, as she admits to only dating asian guys (lots of twists on the usual story), and is not a fan of american culture right now. he’s a litttle bohemian, though, and this gets her thinking about writing, as he really loves literature, despite running a business. they reconnect, have some conversations about race culture and stereotypes, and she is now trying to write, and now he can help her with his knowledge of bohemian subcultures. smash some stereotypes. the chinese american filmmakers of the 70s and 80s would have done this right: quirky, unpredictable, fresh. show some really bizarre and beautiful corners of hong kong, maybe even a writers hangout.

  2. tristian says:

    Its 930 at night and I am watching already tomorrow in hong kong again for 50th time! I found it inspiring and emailed Email a long while back tell her how great the movie is. I am in America this week and missing HK and her movie just brings joy to me, if you do not like this movie, something is seriously wrong with you!!!! and you do not get hk and the lifestyle….greatest movie around..Emily needs to do the sequel…can’t wait…Emily hope life is treating you well, your pal, Tristian

    • john says:

      you are absolutely correct.. even I have watched this movie nearly 100 times.. and still going on..
      I’m addicted to this movie.. waiting for Sequel……

  3. Sue Jaku says:

    Ting may have done better if Ruby sticks to meeting friends, instead of asking Josh out after he guides her to her destination.
    As much as she hesitates to accept his unusually generous offer of personally escorting her (a stranger), it’s childish not to let go of a good rappor–showed bad judgment. Of course, Josh, being a man, will take what he can–sorry, but he would have done them both a favor by declining, realizing that there was something wrong with the relationship he was in, go back to fix it or end it. Trusting he’d meet her later or someone else more suitable. I enjoyed the movie, except for the ending, which begs for a sequel. WHERE IS THAT?
    I hope that “It’s Still Yesterday in LA” opens with Josh having been dumped by Sam, & Ruby with a small child, whom she is speaking Cantonese to.

  4. MJ Melencio says:

    Not bad; good enough actually…but you can’t say it’s on the same level as the Linklater-Hawke-Delphy Before-movies. Will this become a cult classic & spawn 2 sequels like “Before Sunrise”, I don’t think so. One thing that I noticed is that although Brian Greenberg & Jamie Chung are a real-life couple, REEL-life partners Ethan Hawke & Julie Delphy actually displayed more intense on-screen chemistry.

  5. David Ji says:

    A generous review indeed. As a Hong Konger I’m intrigued to see a romantic movie shot in the city as it was usually shown either destroyed by aliens or a hotbed for crime. Having said that this romance developed in the Hong Kong context could have been explored deeper, adding more local elements perhaps. The film is rushed as the review said and disjointed as places. The main characters acting could be a bit more gripping even when walking on the street. I as a viewer couldn’t help playing a parallel movie in my head while watching it. How would I do this scene and when should Josh’s friend run into them, and that kind of thing. The ending also feels more like a quick exit than an attempt to leave a question mark.

  6. Frankie Leung says:

    This film is boring.

  7. Frankie Fook-lun Leung says:

    I saw the movie. It is very amateurishly produced.

  8. It is not easy for a Hong Kong theme movie to catch the world’s attention. The last one was Nancy Kwan and Wililam Holden’s Susie Wong’s World.

  9. Ugh says:

    A VERY generous review

More Film News from Variety