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In '100 Days,' a familiar rom-com setup charms nevertheless

The Taiwan Strait's Matsu Islands provide a scenic backdrop for romance in '100 Days'

Set in the Taiwan Strait's scenic Matsu Islands, "100 Days" may echo dozens of formulaic American romantic comedies — "Sweet Home Alabama" instantly comes to mind — but still manages its own distinct brand of sweetness and light.

Director Henry Chan, working off a script by Megi Hsu (based on a story by producer Weiko Lin), lets things get overly broad at times but otherwise wrings genial humor and gentle emotion from the familiar setup.

When his estranged mother dies, haughty telecom executive Bo Dan (Johnny Lu) returns to his small island hometown to attend her funeral as well as to broker — or maybe scuttle — a deal to bring advanced fiber optics to the underserved community. But when Bo Dan becomes swept up in a local tradition that mandates that he marry within 100 days so his mother's spirit can "transition" peacefully, it's time to rev up the rom-com machinery. Or is it?

In an unexpected — and perhaps unearned — narrative bait and switch, Bo Dan is quickly freed of all marital responsibility when it's deemed his kindly stepbrother Zhen Fong (Soda Voyu), long engaged to Bo Dan's childhood sweetheart, Xiao Wei (Tracy Chou), can step in for him. Not surprisingly, as Zhen Fong and Xiao Wei plan a quickie wedding, Bo Dan and Xiao Wei's old romantic dynamic resurfaces.

A boating accident, a typhoon and an injured ankle conspire to keep Bo Dan stuck on the island and in Xiao Wei's midst. As contrived as these obstacles may feel, they help move the piece in some poignant, engaging directions as Bo Dan rethinks his past, present and maybe even future.

The film's lovely location is a standout.

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"100 Days"

MPAA Rating: Nonr.

Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes. In Mandarin with English subtitles.

Playing: Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.

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