Perhaps only an expat like American–born, Hong Kong–based director Stanley J. Orzel could create a tribute to his adopted city as loving as Lost for Words.
Orzel’s budget apparently extended to helicopter shots of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers, and he takes in many of the city’s other attractions as well. Fortunately, there’s far more to his slickly directed film than mere virtual tourism; pitched somewhere between art film and melodrama, it recalls Peter Chan’s classic Comrades, Almost a Love Story in its depiction of frustrated romance.
In summary, the plot could sound like a bad rom-com: White American ex-Marine Michael (Sean Faris) takes a job in IT in Hong Kong, and, jogging one day, literally runs into Chinese ballerina Anna (Grace Huang). They become friends and start meeting to polish their skills in each other’s native languages. Eventually, this blossoms into love. Lost for Words is surprisingly subdued and deliberately paced, slowly observing the growing attraction between Michael and Anna. Despite a sometimes overbearing score, it dodges almost every chance for cheap drama until the final 15 minutes.
The finale suddenly suggests a possible “faith-based” agenda and changes the tone considerably, but it’s not enough to diminish the rest of the film. The weakest link is Faris: His performance is a bit stiff, and his character is never quite believable as a traumatized tough guy or even a driven computer geek. To Orzel’s credit, he seems to know how to work around it and avoid clichés about cross-cultural romance.