Let me say it clearly without fear: I'm a sucker for cheesy love stories, and "City of Glass" is as cheesy as they come.
Whether you're going to like this movie or not will rely solely on your ability not to vomit after constant exposure to several different versions of the same cheesy pop song, "Try to Remember".
Still, the basic premise of "City of Glass" makes for a good love story by any standards. Though, by it's very nature, the parents' story is the most interesting because there's more at stake. There no risk involved in the kids' story, but it's a nice idea to juxtapose the two timelines. I love the way the story moves from one time period to the next in an almost seamless manner.
"City of Glass" work very visually, and keeps the talking to a minimum. That makes it a very accessible and very emotional story, where images, colors and music are preferred over dialogue and exposition. A picture speaks a thousand words after all...
And speaking of pictures... this is without a doubt one of the most beautifully photographed Hong Kong films I've ever seen. Jingle Ma, cinematographer turned director with such films as "Goodbye Mr. Cool", and "Tokyo Raiders" under his belt, is the one responsible for the images here. The mood and tone of the photography supports the emotions of the actions in a way that more often than not leaves you breathless. In a word: stunning.
The writing is impeccable.
The love stories evolve in a very natural way that doesn't seem forced, or staged, or needlessly emotional, the way Hollywood films often end up.
The only weakness I want to point out, storywise, is the fact that it's never clearly explained why Raphael and Vivien don't break up with their respective spouses, seing as they are so unhappy, and so desperately wanna be together. This could be explained by the usual reasons, staying together for the kids and so on, but it still needs to be addressed within the film. Somebody needs to say "we're staying in our miserable relationships because..."
But this is the only serious flaw in the story, and there are many cute and touching scenes between the two couples that - in my opinion - it's easily forgiven.
Okay, the age difference could be considered a problem. There's no way Shu Qi and Leon Lai could be old enough to be parents with children as old as Daniel Wu and Nicola Cheung. But since the film never shows the kids and the parents together, side by side, it somehow works anyway. And though Shu Qi doesn't seem to age a day from her early scenes (in the '60s) to the present day ('97). she still manages to pull of the transition from young, innocent, and in love, to older, wiser, and a little bitter. Ditto for Leon Lai, though the ever so delicately applied grey stripes in his hair constitute the only physical change the couple is going through.
David Wu and Nicola Cheung have a lot less to work with, but still they manage to make an impression, mostly because their scenes are so cute.
Except for the character of Derrek, Raphael and Vivien's friend, the two couples are basically the only characters in the film. There are no parents and almost no friends present in the film meaning that the love stories takes place in a void. The only elements in the story are the characters, what they can do to each other, and what the world can do to all of them. But you know... that's quite enough.
If you're an old softy like me (for the record I'm from '75), who also cried during "Dirty Dancing" and "Pretty Woman", then you're gonna lap this one right up! But if you have trouble stomaching romantic films like this, then stay away because you're gonna find little to like about City of Glass... Oh, and on a public service note: Shu Qi is not even a little bit naked in this one, and still it's one of my favourites. Go figure.