“True love is your own choice, you have to love unconditionally” the cynical fortuneteller at the centre of Someone in the Clouds (真愛神出來, zhēn’ài shén chūlái) is told by Venus herself during an impromptu intervention. Is love fated or a matter of choice? Both, it would seem. At least, that special person might be out there, but you won’t know unless you fully commit. Another in the ongoing series of charming romantic comedies from Taiwan, Someone in the Clouds tackles the divination of love in more ways than one as its romance-averse heroine is forced to look at love from all angles.
The daughter of a fortune telling family, Hsaio-Pei (Jian Man-shu) makes a living as a tarot reader mostly offering romantic advice to women suffering in love while she herself does not really believe in “the one”. Hsiao-Pei’s cynical, flighty mother declares that the most loveable love letter is a credit card and has been in a constant cycle of failed relationships since divorcing Hsaio-Pei’s father for the crime of working too much. In any case, the drama begins when Hsiao-Pei is spotted by in the subway by cocksure student Chiung-nan (Austin Lin Bo-hong) who tracks her down, walks into her uni tarot club, and wields the cards asking for a date. Not given much opportunity to refuse, Hsiao-Pei goes with it and the two have a beautiful, adolescent romance only for petty insecurities to end up getting in the way.
According to Venus, all romances begin with “coincidence” but there is no “coincidence” in love. The goddess can guide the way, but the truth, apparently, is that true love is a free choice which is why Venus finds Hsiao-Pei’s mother so particularly annoying seeing as she always backs off when the going gets tough. Thus, Venus guides Chiung-nan to the tarot club for the meet cute, but Hsiao-Pei has to agree to the match. Venus’ parting wisdom is that true love, in a sense, is actually self love in that once you’re happy in yourself and can love unconditionally without expecting anything in return you will find “true love” without even realising it.
Yet Hsiao-Pei’s path towards such a realisation requires a fair amount of intervention from the increasingly exasperated goddess. A moment of jealousy about some texts from an old girlfriend threatens to bring the whole thing crashing down while Hsiao-Pei relives her climactic moments Sliding Doors style trying to decide what might have been if different things had been said or done. Meanwhile, she continues reading the future for others and “punishing” Chiung-nan by punishing herself in a grim mirror of Venus’ central philosophy.
Alternatively, as her grandpa claims, all you need to do to be happy is be kind and generous in the knowledge that life is short. This is a life lesson he imparts to Chiung-nan’s buxom cousin, a super popular online glamour model currently engaged to a wealthy Singaporean air steward who was originally taken by the idea of annoying his conservative parents with a surprise marriage to a modern girl but is now waking up to the major implications of his reckless decision. More words of wisdom come from Hsiao-Pei’s friend Panhai who takes a cheating ex back because she feels he needs her, replying to Hsiao-Pei’s criticism that need is not love with the reasoning that not everyone can tell the difference.
True love is, according to the goddess at least, as simple as deciding to be happy. She can point the way, but in the end it’s up to the individual to claim their right to happiness or dwell in cynical misery for evermore. A whimsical coming-of-age romance, Someone in the Clouds finds that love is fate and free will in equal measure in which there are no “coincidences” only brief moments of transition standing in for destiny. What Hsiao-pei learns is that in order to achieve romantic happiness she’ll have to put her cards on the table for someone else to read while resolving to accept another interpretation in order to make a “free” choice with the spirit of kindness and generosity which allows her to forgive both herself and others.
Someone in the Clouds was screened as part of the 2019 New York Asian Film Festival.
Original trailer (Traditional Chinese subtitles only)