Review: Ran Li’s ‘Till Love Do Us Part’

Till Love Do Us Part Review - 2022 Ran Li Movie Film

Vague Visages’ Till Love Do Us Part review contains minor spoilers. Ran Li’s 2022 movie stars Cuishan Liang, Ninghao Zhang and Bin Ren. Check out the VV home page for more film reviews, along with cast/character summaries, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings.


The bittersweet “after” is one of the most challenging aspects of international travel. When all the romanticism fades — of places and faces — one might be left with nothing but memories and temporary madness. But isn’t that what it’s all about? Personal growth via personal risks? A better understanding of what the heart wants and needs? Ran Li’s quietly devastating feature debut, Till Love Do Us Part (Wo men bu neng bai tou xie lao), channels the charm of Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy while carrying the emotional baggage of an introspective international classic like Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1963).

In Xiamen, 30-year-old Shu (Cuishan Liang, feature debut) lectures about urban planning and maintains a loveless relationship with her businessman fiancé, Hu (Bin Ren). The female protagonist travels to Prague, where she begins a bookstore romance with a 34-year-old Chinese theatre director named Fan (Ninghao Zhang). Li plays with subtle genre subversions throughout Till Love Do Us Part, most notably in terms of Shu’s self-awareness. In a traditional travel-themed drama about hopeless romantics, witty dialogue brings the main players together. Shu, however, doesn’t have much to say in Till Love Do Us Part’s Prague scenes. The woman feels something for Fan but can’t pinpoint his motivations. And so the audience can easily identify the power dynamics as the protagonists feel each other out.

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Till Love Do Us Part Review - 2022 Ran Li Movie Film

Shu wears her heart on her sleeve in Till Love Do Us Part, whereas Fan observes his new curiosity while musing about the history of his government-funded professional habitat. “We brought life to this place,” he says, just minutes before Liang’s character correlates her job with social “uncertainty.” And just like that, Li sets the table for a potentially explosive romance in big city Europe, à la the Vienna-based Before Sunrise (1995). Is Fan serious about a relationship? Or is he simply a pretentious artist looking for attention? And can Shu hold a poker face for a few moments without giggling? Till Love Do Us Part is less about misunderstandings and more about a mutual reckoning with reality.

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Li’s Till Love Do Us Part screenplay reminds of a chatty and unorthodox relationship drama like Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy (2010). Meaning, it’s for adults, or at least curious people who understand how to find truth in non-verbal behavior. And that truth might be internal rather than external. Given Liang’s lack of on-screen experience, a heavy amount of character dialogue might’ve felt overwhelming while filming Till Love Do Us Part. But the actress impressively communicates Shu’s state of mind through nervous laughter and subtle character mannerisms. In contrast, Fan makes his intentions clear. He knows about Shu’s relationship but hopes that she’ll join his band of artistic outsiders. Zhang’s polished performance drives the narrative, leaving the audience to think deeper about the film’s sociopolitical themes and the male protagonist’s side-job as a computer salesman.

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Till Love Do Us Part Review - 2022 Ran Li Movie Film

Visually, Till Love Do Us Part isn’t a flashy film. Li and cinematographer Chen Hu incorporate a variety of stylized profile shots, but the substance comes primarily from the loaded screenplay. Beyond the obvious themes, Li asks the audience to consider the bigger picture, in terms of Chinese culture and the main protagonists’ history within their native country. Does the affair make practical sense? And has any biographical information been omitted? Midway through Till Love Do Us Part, a Fellini-esque theatre performance scene raises questions about the main characters’ motivations and arguably provokes the audience into picking a side, as Shu seems ready for an Eat Pray Love (2010) adventure, whereas Fan emerges as a cinematic descendant of Marcello Mastroianni’s Guido Anselmi from the aforementioned 8 1/2 — a creative mind who’s always searching for personal truths. Li doesn’t necessarily make any harsh judgments about her protagonists in Till Love Do Us Part, but rather details the socioeconomic conditions that affect their respective worldviews.

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Li, with her intellectual screenplay and cultural detail, doesn’t mess around with rambling commentaries about politics and art in Till Love Do Us Part. The main characters feel like real, flawed individuals — people who want more from life than just the same ol’ things on repeat. World travelers often get tagged with reductive labels, but many of such individuals simply need to scratch an itch, fully aware that heartbreak is on the table. Anthony Bourdain felt that way, I assume. And what a life he led, even if it hurt like hell in the end. Some things are worth it. And some people are worth the risk.

Till Love Do Us Part will screen at the 2023 Rhode Island International Film Festival and will also be shown at Cinequest in August.

Q.V. Hough (@QVHough) is Vague Visages’ founding editor.

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