Hong Kong 1962: Ambitious newspaper editor Chow (Tony Leung Ka Fai) and shy secretary Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) are among the many immigrants who have fled to the British crown colony after the conquest of Shanghai by the Chinese Communists. Although both are married and receive a regular salary, they can afford only a subleased room with a foreign family due to the housing shortage in Hong Kong. Incidentally, they move into the same apartment building on the same day and live next door. Every day, Chow and Li-zhen meet in the hallway. Since their spouses are almost never at home, they gradually develop a relationship marked by a subliminal longing and Platonic friendship. Finally, they find out that Chow’s wife and Li-zhen’s husband have a secret affair. Although Chow and Li-zhen are passionately in love, the thought of leaving their spouses and trading partners seems unacceptable. They involuntarily spend a single night together in a hotel room while she helps him write a martial arts novel. Shy and guilty, the two lovers, however, keep their a distance. To escape the sad situation, Chow offers to elope to Singapore where he intends to accept a desk job at a local paper.
In contrast to his previous films Chungking Express, Days of Being Wild or Fallen Angels, Wong Kar-Wai tells In the Mood for Love as an almost classic love story with a sad outcome, not a wild formal experiment of hectic camera, but a nostalgic dream that captures the viewer with strong implications than statements. The deft cinematography takes you to wonderfully arranged vintage scenery. At the same time, however, Wong Kar-Wai proves to be the master of small gestures that prevent the film from sliding too much into the emotional or the kitschy. A hypnotic film experience and that is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful films about love of all time.