My rating for this film: 8.0
In many ways, this film can be seen as an excursion (or incursion?) by its director, Stanley Kwan, into Wong Kar Wai territory -- a place which is less archetypally Asian and more transnationally urban: That is, one populated by frequently bi- and tri-lingual individuals who lead essentially lonely lives (even when married and/or not entirely friendless) rather than people whose lives are characteristically defined -- and often confined -- by their kin and other social relations. "Chungking Express" being the exception, it also largely is a sad and melancholy locale. It ought to be pointed out though that HOLD YOU TIGHT covers this ground in a much more subtle way than is the case in the Wong Kar Wai productions I have seen.
Let us be clear here: This is not the movie for those who seek -- and usually find in Hong Kong movies -- exuberant, frenetic and kinetic energy and vision. There is neither flashy camera work nor spectacular imagery here. In addition, the pace of the movie is slow (but steady rather than languid); and there generally is an understated and restrained feel to this dramatic effort. Even the ample sex scenes are enacted and filmed in a way that is not showy even while they are revealing, and the full-frontal male nudity seen to be natural rather than remarkable.
On the other hand, the film does feature the kind of fine ensemble work, complex characters, and multi-stranded – as well as non-linear -- plot that I have come to expect, not just look forward to, of quality Hong Kong productions. An unglamorous-looking Chingmy Yau shows that she can be a serious actress (though I must admit that I do not see the point of her playing two different characters in this one film), the less (in)famous members of the cast (This was my first glimpse of Sunny Chan and Ko Yue-Lin) do not look like they are out of their depth at all, and usually supporting character actors (Eric Tsang, Sandra Ng) get adequate screen time to show their worth. It is a tribute to their ability that all of the actors are able to convey so much using body language and facial expressions as well as words and other vocal cues.
Without taking anything away from the actors, it actually is amazing how much inanimate objects (a computer, a bowl of noodles, a poster, a bottle of cologne) also were effectively used to communicate as well as contain and evoke thoughts, ideas and feelings in this film. Credit too is surely due to the makers of this movie for their empathetic and sensitive rendering of persons who are morally flawed yet one would -- in large part because of the perspective presented -- not label as degenerate or lacking.
In sum: This is an unpretentious, movingly "real" movie that, as it unfolds, slowly but surely touches and grips you...providing you are open to recognizing, then embracing, this opportunity.
My rating for this film: 8.5