Review: ‘Lost in the Stars’ (2023), starring Zhu Yilong, Janice Man, Du Jiang, Ni Ni and Huang Ziqi

July 13, 2023

by Carla Hay

Zhu Yilong and Janice Man in “Lost in the Stars” (Photo courtesy of CMC Pictures)

“Lost in the Stars” (2023)

Directed by Rui Cui and Xiang Liu

Mandarin with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place on the fictional Asian island country of Balandia, the dramatic film “Lost in the Stars” (based on the play and movie “Trap for a Lonely Man”) features an nearly all-Asian cast of characters (with one white person) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: While on an anniversary trip with his wife, a man finds her missing and another woman insisting that she is his wife.

Culture Audience: “Lost in the Stars” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching unpredictable mysteries.

Ni Ni in “Lost in the Stars” (Photo courtesy of CMC Pictures)

“Lost in the Stars” is a stylish and twist-filled thriller that delivers an appealing combination of suspense and plausible acting. What isn’t so believable is a certain aspect of this conspiracy story, but most of the movie is better than its flaws. It’s the type of movie that will keep viewers guessing until the last 15 minute when secrets are revealed.

Directed by Rui Cui and Xiang Liu, “Lost in the Stars” is based on Robert Thomas’ 1960 play “Trap for a Lonely Man,” which was then made into the director Alexey Korenev’s 1990 movie of the same name. Chen Sicheng, Gu Shuyi and Yin Yixiong wrote the adapted screenplay for “Lost in the Stars,” which takes place mostly on the fictional Asian island of Balandia. There are also several flashbacks that take place in China, the native country of the main characters in the story.

He Fei (played by Zhu Yilong) is a former scuba diving instructor who is on a wedding anniversary vacation with his wife Li Muzi (played by Huang Ziqi, also known as Kay Huang) in Balandia. Things seems to be gong well during this romantic getaway. But then, not long after Fei and Muzi arrive in Balandia, Muzi disappears. A glamorous-looking stranger (played by Ni Ni) then appears in the couple’s hotel room and claims to be Muzi.

Fei calls the local police to report this bizarre situation. Zheng Cheng (played by Du Jiang), the police officer who arrives to investigate, is skeptical, to say the least. The woman whom Fei claims is impersonating his wife has photo IDs and other things that she offers as proof that she is Muzi. Fei’s credibility is further called into question when surveillance video from a local bookstore shows that the woman who says she’s Muzi is shown with Fei on the day before Fei says Muzi disappeared.

The woman who says that she is Fei’s wife tells Officer Zheng that Fei has a tendency to be forgetful. She also says that Fei can be abusive. Fei denies it all and insists that the woman who’s claiming to be his wife is the one who’s lying. However, several hotel employees and other eyewitnesses back up the woman’s claims.

The plot gets a little shaky when Fei calls someone in China to ask that person to email photos of the real Muzi. There’s a rushed explanation that the WiFi service is unreliable on this island, so the email doesn’t arrive. The local police are satisfied with the eyewitness statements that the woman claiming to be Muzi is the same woman they saw with Fei the day before Fei claims that Muzi disappeared.

Fei is very disturbed by the woman claiming to be Muzi. She knows a lot about Muzi and has seemingly taken over her identity. Fei isn’t willing to give up so easily in proving that he’s telling the truth. At a bar, he is told about a “hotshot attorney” who might be able to help him.

The attorney’s name is Chen Mi (played by Janice Man), who is intelligent and has a no-nonsense attitude. Mi agrees to help Fei investigate and find out what happened to Muzi. The rest of the movie is a race against time to solve the mystery before Fei’s visitor visa expires.

As Fei and Mi begin to get to know each other better, Fei opens up to her about how he and Muzi met (she was a student taking scuba diving lessons from him) and their whirlwind courtship. Of course, viewers will keep wondering why this mystery woman is impersonating Muzi, or if it’s all just a delusion from Fei. Zhu and Man give the standout performances in “Lost in the Stars,” as Fei and Mi start off having a prickly relationship that appears to turn into gradual respect.

“Lost in the Stars” has definite influences from Alfred Hitchcock films, in terms of cinematography and pacing. However, parts of the story get too convoluted and hard to believe. The big “reveal” at the end is meant to be shocking, but it just raises more questions that the movie never answers. Even with this shortcoming, there are more than enough entertaining aspects of “Lost in the Stars” that should satisfy people who like watching mysteries that don’t follow the usual formulas.

CMC Pictures released “Lost in the Stars” in select U.S. cinemas on July 7, 2023. The movie was released in China on June 23, 2023.

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