Zhu Yilong and Janice Man in "Lost in the Stars" (2023)

Lost in the Stars 消失的她 (2023) Review

At the time of writing, Lost in the Stars <消失的她> has amassed over RMB3.08 billion (US$430 million) at the China box office alone, making it one of the highest-grossing Chinese-language movies of 2023 as well as in the all-time chart. The movie exceeded expectations, where it even overcame stiff competition like Chow Yun-Fat’s long-awaited comeback dramedy of One More Chance <別叫我“賭神”> and Harrison Ford’s swan song of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

Which brings me to the all-important question: What’s the big deal about Lost in the Stars <消失的她> that it became such a bona fide hit? Well, after watching the movie, it’s easy to see why. The film is wickedly entertaining from start to finish, thanks to Rui Cui and Liu Xiang’s crafty directions who skilfully adopt the Hitchcockian style to navigate the labyrinthine storyline.

Inspired by Alexey Korenev’s 1990 Soviet comedy A Trap for Lonely Man, which was itself adapted from Robert Thomas’s 1960 French stage play, Lost in the Stars <消失的她> gets off to an intriguing start. We first see the Chinese tourist, He Fei (Zhu Yilong) turns frantic when he shows up at a local police station on the fictional Southeast Asian island of Balandia. Apparently, he and his wife Li Muzi (Huang Ziqi) are on their wedding anniversary trip before she mysteriously went missing without a trace. No one in the police station seems to be helping with his case except for one Chinese-speaking police officer, Zheng Cheng (Du Jiang), who promises him he’ll try his best to investigate the matter.

Then, something weird happens the next day He Fei wakes up in his hotel: a beautiful woman claims herself as Li Muzi (Janice Man) but He Fei insists she’s not his wife. And yet, the self-professed Li Muzi shows him all the necessary evidence, namely her passport to support her claim. Even the hotel’s housekeeper and manager help to confirm her identity and the reason she went missing has to do with her teaching him a lesson. But no matter what she said, He Fei remains unconvinced as he determines to find out the truth at all costs before his visa expires in a few days’ time.

So, he ends up seeking the help of a top lawyer Chen Mai (Ni Ni), who’s never lost a case. What follows next is a series of investigations that leads from one unexpected discovery to another, and elaborating the synopsis further would be spoiler territory altogether.

Lost in the Stars <消失的她> benefits from deft pacing and above all, a thrilling whodunit that keeps you guessing with all the twists and turns. Save for the awkwardly misplaced stylish car chase sequence, the movie looks visually captivating with Tang Hongjia’s slick editing and He Shan’s atmospheric cinematography. It also helps the movie has a solid cast, beginning with Zhu Yilong’s panicked everyman persona caught in a whirlwind mystery surrounding his missing wife and the imposter disguising her. Janice Man displays a subtle touch of sexy and sneaky demeanour in her supporting turn as Li Muzi while Ni Ni delivers strong support as the tough lawyer, Chen Mai.

The movie tends to grow convoluted as the plot thickens, particularly the eventual reveal that feels somewhat questionable. The third act even borderlines into the preposterous narrative territory. The kind of love-or-hate scenario that demands you to suspend your disbelief. Still, it’s all forgivable, especially given the amount of wily fun of a Hitchcockian mystery-thriller. Lost in the Stars <消失的她> also happens to be executive produced by Chen Sicheng of the hugely popular Sheep Without a Shepherd <误杀> and Detective Chinatown <唐人街探案> fame.

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