When it comes to cinema, gentleness - very probably a virtue - is certainly a relief. We are now so used to characters parading their behaviour extrovertly, ideas which bludgeon us with their obviousness, and cameras which move with neurotic frenzy that it is uplifting to witness a story which unfolds in peace and quiet. And quietness, by the way, doesn't mean bland.
What we have here is a beautifully-tailored, low key (but always dramatic) story by Wong Kar-wai (all of whose films have won awards, including Best Director at Cannes for "Happy Together"), which details the developing relationship between a young man and woman, both of whose spouses, they eventually learn, are cheating on them. As they are drawn together, initially by a pleasant, warm formality, and eventually by much deeper feelings in a cultural climate where respectability is crucial, they do their utmost to hide their small moves from those around them.
In fact, Wong Kar-wai - a most intelligent, thoughtful director - only ever has the two key characters in close up so that we absorb the essence of the relationship, and the film. A true master of visual storytelling, he makes close ups of a hand knocking on a door, mustard being placed on a plate, and a quick blink of an eye entirely relevant to the picture's emotional core. Both Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung are at one with the director's desire for performances which rely on nuance, and they powerfully express that guilty mix of tension and desire.