Shanghai in the 1940's: Quiyao (Sammi Cheng) is a rather plain
school girl, dreaming with her more attractive friend Lili (Su Yan) the
typical romantic dreams that girls of their age have. Then though they
meet photographer Cheng (Tony Leung Ka Fai), who sees Quiyao's inner
beauty, persuades her to have some photos taken, then he even persuades
her to enter the Miss Shanghai beauty pargeant. Of course he secretly also
falls in love with her.
Quiyao wins the pageant, thanks to the behind-the-scenes interference
of General Li (Hu Jun), & soon enough she becomes his mistress, &
he offers her a high-class appartment & a luxurious life. Cheng &
Lili meanwhile become a couple, but Cheng is still in love with Quiyao.
However, soon political unrest hits Shanghai, & all of China, &
Lili leaves for Hong Kong with her father. & with a new regime,
general Li suddenly falls from grace & is forced to hide away, then
leave the country altogether. He asks Cheng to tell Quiyao that he is
dead, but when Cheng, upon telling her that, sees Quiyao breaking down, he
tells her the truth.
Shanghai, the 1950's: The Communist Regime forces Quiyao to give up her
luxusrious appartment, but she is in good spirits, having met Ming (Daniel
Wu), with whom she really falls in love. Soon, he impregnates her, too,
& the 2 of them prepare to marry, when disaster strikes again for
Quiyao: Ming suddenly has to leave the country with his father & has
to leave Quiyao & the unborn baby behind. To save her honour, somehow
a marriage with a terminally ill man is arranged, but when they have their
wedding photo taken in Cheng's photoshop, they look everything but happy.
Cheng has meanwhile married Kela (Huang Jue), but he is still in love with
Shanghai, the 1960's: With the help of Cheng, who cares more for her
than he should, Quiyao brings up her daughter. Soon enough his wife can't
take it anymore & leaves him.
Shanghai, the 1970's: Quiyao's daughter Wei Wei is grown up & has
married, if unhappy, & soon enough, she & her husband decide to
leave Shanghai for good. Quiyao still looks attractive for being in her
50's though, & soon enough starts an affair with Simon, Lili's son,
who stays at Cheng's. & even though Cheng is still in love with
Quiyao, she has sex with Simon in Cheng's appartment . But Simon has a bit
of black-marketing running on the side with an attractive girl ... &
one day, he & the girl make their getaway from Shanghai (or so it
Meanwhile, Quiyao, once again heartbroken, has gotten back the
aooartment general Li once gave her from the gouvernment, & she learns
that Li is now a rancher in Brazil ... but soon enough she gets news about
him having died, which breaks her heart once more ... which is when Simon
stops by, now wanted by the police & in desperate need for money ...
& he knows Quiyao still has some from her affair with general
Understandably, Quiyao refuses to help him out, after he has dropped
her like that, & in the rowe that ensues, he accidently kills her,
then calls his friend Cheng. But all Cheng can do now is to hand him over
to the police & mourn for the love he never had ...
Now in my synopsis this film might sound like little more than a
retelling of Chinese history in the person of one Miss Shanghai, but in
fact, Everlasting Regret is a great melodrama (an extremely rare
species these days) about a woman who always loves the wrong men, & a
man who never gets the woman he loves, with actual historical events
taking back seat (except for some scenes about the cultural revolution
maybe that make little narrative sense & are [reportedly] not in the
book the film is based on). To tell his story, director Stanley Kwan
instead totally refuses to use historical stock footage, even has most of
the film taking place inside to not overburden the narrative with
historical references, & boldly but self-consciously uses
old-fashioned (but somehow still fresh) directing techniques.