Review: ‘I Love You, to the Moon, and Back’ (2024), starring Zhang Zifeng and Hu Xianxu

May 29, 2024

by Carla Hay

Hu Xianxu and Zhang Zifeng in “I Love You, to the Moon, and Back” (Photo courtesy of Tiger Pictures Entertainment)

“I Love You, to the Moon, and Back”

Directed by Li Weiran

Culture Representation: Taking place in China, in 1996, the dramatic film “I Love You, to the Moon, and Back” (based on the novel “Moonstruck”) features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two spouses in the early 20s navigate the challenges of having a long-distance marriage. 

Culture Audience: “I Love You, to the Moon, and Back” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and uncomplicated romantic dramas.

Zhang Zifeng and Hu Xianxu in “I Love You, to the Moon, and Back” (Photo courtesy of Tiger Pictures Entertainment)

Just like the saying that inspired the title of this movie, “I Love You, to the Moon, and Back” is a little bit outdated and old-fashioned, but it’s got enough charm to keep most viewers interested. This sweet romantic drama about a couple in a long-distance marriage has good acting performances that carry the movie when it gets repetitive and a bit dull. It’s neither heavy nor lightweight. The supporting characters are underdeveloped.

“I Love You, to the Moon, and Back” was directed by Li Weiran, who co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with Chi Zijan. The movie is based on Chi’s “Moonstruck” novel. Nothing controversial, daring or surprising happens in “I Love You, to the Moon, and Back,” which takes place in China in 1996. It’s the type of movie that will make some viewers bored and is best appreciated in a setting where viewers won’t have distractions.

The central characters in “I Love You, to the Moon, and Back” are spouses Wang Rui (played by Hu Xianxu) and Xiushan (played by Zhang Zifeng), who are both in their early 20s. Both characters intermittently give voiceover narration in the movie. There are also some flashbacks, such as a scene that shows that Rui and Xiushan met when they both worked at the same construction site in a small town.

Rui and Xiushan have been married for about one year. Shortly after they got married, they both decided to move to bigger cities for better job opportunities. Rui chose to stay in the construction business and works for a company in Shenzhen. Xiushan works for a dumpling factory in Guangzhou, which is about 84 miles (or 135.6 kilometers) away from Shenzhen.

It’s explained early on in the movie that the couple made this compromise to have a long-distance marriage because they need to live wherever they could each find a job. Rui and Xiushan travel by train to meet up once a month at a place called the Happiness Inn. They have been trying to start a family.

Rui and Xiushan are both romantics who have different ways of expressing their love. Rui likes to bring flowers to Xiushan every time that they meet up. Xiushan likes to make their trysts at the Happiness Inn feel as much like being at home as possible, so she brings a bed blanket that reminds them of when they used to live together. Rui and Xiushan have a romantic ritual where they like to play harmonica for each other. This harmonica playing becomes a significant part of the story.

Most of “I Love You, to the Moon, and Back” is about the trips back and forth that Rui and Xiushan take to see each other. Some of the movie is about the people they meet on their train trips. A drunk passenger strikes up a conversation with Rui, who tells this stranger about his long-distance marriage. The passenger tells him that long-distance relationships rarely last and that Rui’s wife is probably cheating on him.

Rui gets even more insecure about the relationship when he surprises Xiushan for an unannounced visit. She isn’t at her home, which she shares with two co-workers. The younger co-worker jokes that Xiushan is probably out on a date. But Rui thinks she isn’t joking and gets worried about what Xiushan is doing when they are apart.

Zhang and Hu give solid performances as this likeable newlywed couple during the ups and downs of the marriage. The movie’s biggest deficiency is that it doesn’t show much about who else is in this couple’s lives, such as friends or family members. Still, if viewers are looking for a harmless and somewhat sentimental romantic story, “I Love You, to the Moon, and Back” is an adequate option.

Tiger Pictures Entertainment released “I Love You, to the Moon, and Back” in select U.S. cinemas on May 24, 2024. The movie was released in China on May 1, 2024.

Copyright 2017-2024 Culture Mix
CULTURE MIX