A paean to cinephilia that might goad viewers into questioning the value of film itself, Riley Ip’s dishwater-dull period melodrama adopts the treacle of
Cinema Paradiso without Miramaxy bombast. Set in 1970s Hong Kong, Just One Look charts the development of Fan (Shawn Yu), a feckless teenager weaned on police serials and one-armed swordsman sagas, still reeling from his father’s suicide in a movie theater 10 years earlier. When not torturing rats or scuffling with street gangs, Fan and bosom buddy Ming (Wong You-nam) pursue a kung fu master’s daughter and a nun-in- training (played by both members of the Cantopop duo Twins) by copying film synopses into love letters. Every gesture—including Fan’s continued insistence that his father died at the hands of a local crime lord—is an attempt at movie star emulation, but Ip never makes his subjects’ kino love palpable. The martial-arts-trained boys don’t obsess over their first viewing of Fist of Fury, and Fan offers no protest when a date-night showing of Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet is interrupted by a newsreel of Nixon’s visit to China. Any nostalgic reverie Just One Look hopes to impart remains incurably muted.