The ability of mainland Chinese actress (Vicki) Zhao Wei to transform even average material into something of interest illumines “A Time to Love.” Succulently lensed yarn about two childhood friends who finally get together well into adulthood is fairly standard Asian romantic fare — given luster (and an emotional wallop in the final scene) purely by Zhao’s gamine personality. Tailored for, and released around, Valentine’s Day in China — now an established marketing hook — pic will be savored best at Asiaphile events. Zhao copped best actress award at the recent Shanghai fest.
Starting in the ’70s and spread over some 20 years, tale focuses on apartment block neighbors Qu Ran (Zhao) and Hou Jia (Lu Yi) who are crazy about each other but never even kiss. Hou’s grumpy, wheelchair-bound mom (Song Xiaoying) outlaws the relationship because Qu’s father (Zhang Qian) played some unspecified role in his dad’s suicide, and only years later do the lovers scale family obstacles. Helmer Hou Jianqi (“Postman in the Mountains”) makes atmospheric use of the squeaky old apartment block, but the script is thin and Lu makes an uninspiring partner for Zhao.