This is day 15, so we’ve hit the halfway mark for the 30 Day Film Challenge! Woohoo! Thank you to all the people who have been showing me so much support by reading my blog posts and encouraging me to keep writing. You guys have really kept me motivated throughout this entire challenge thus far, and I’m grateful for you all. =)
Today’s film is the Chinese movie My Old Classmate. I decided to watch this movie after browsing the internet and coming across this film by chance. Since it featured Lin Geng Xin, whom I really liked in the historical television drama Scarlet Heart (a.k.a With Each Startling Step), I decided to give this movie a try. I was also in the mood for a nostalgic film, and My Old Classmate fits the bill, since, according to some research, it is similar to the Chinese movies So Young, You Are the Apple of My Eye, and Fleet of Time, all of which are movies that focus on the good old days of youth.
Inspired by and sharing the same name as a popular Chinese song, My Old Classmate is a story of first love. The movie begins with a shot of the male protagonist, Lin Yi (Lin Geng Xin), who is a worker in a New York firm. He receives mail from China at his office, and when he opens it, he sees an invitation to the wedding of his first love, Xiao Zhi (Zhou Dong Yu). He decides to attend the wedding, which will be in China, and as he boards the plane, he tightly holds onto a box containing various trinkets, which sets into motion a series of flashbacks that tell the audience the story of how he and Xiao Zhi met and how they were just not meant to be.
My Old Classmate intended to tug at the audience’s heartstrings and bring back the bittersweet memories of youth, and its premise seemed promising in delivering such a movie. Even the casting was great, especially Zhou Dong Yu, whose pure image and delicate demeanor perfectly fits her character. However, the movie’s execution failed to help achieve the film’s goal. The movie’s format was slightly confusing because it switched too frequently between past and present and dream and reality, making it difficult to keep track of what happened vs. what was fantasy and what dreams/events happened in the past vs. in the present. This confusion made the film not only difficult to comprehend, but also less enjoyable because the audience has to work hard to piece together the different fragments into a coherent story.
There were also a lot of historical events that were randomly inserted throughout the flashbacks to give people a sense of time and to bring back memories of the past. However, some of them were inserted rather insensitively, such as the 9/11 attacks. Perhaps it is because I am viewing the film from an American perspective that I found the image of the Twin Towers crashing and the character’s bad attempt at looking shocked to be slightly offensive and irreverent to such a horrible event in American history. Also, there were just too many historical events that were mentioned or shown in the movie that were irrelevant to the plot, so it felt unnecessary. It would have been better just to choose a few historical events and really work them into the story so that those events have meaning instead of feeling like a mere recitation of history. For example, the part in the film about the SARS epidemic was actually relevant to the plot, so it was more meaningful and memorable than a lot of the other historical events mentioned.
As for My Old Classmate’s plot, it was a mashup of common themes and plot details in other similar youth/nostalgia films: the problem student falling for the perfect student, the first love that can never be, small rebellious acts against authoritative figures like schoolmasters and parents, an unexpected pregnancy, and a boatload of misunderstandings between lovers and friends. Even though the film borrowed a lot of content from other similar films, that doesn’t mean My Old Classmate was boringly predictable. While it wasn’t super exciting or impactful since a lot of the plot wasn’t very original, the movie was still a decent watch.
Despite its confusing format, inundation of historical references, and cliche plot, My Old Classmate did have nuggets of goodness. As I’ve mentioned before, the cast was great. Both Lin Geng Xin and Zhou Dong Yu delivered great performances, and they also had great chemistry. There were also moments of humor that helped brighten up a movie with an otherwise sad message, which can be perfectly summarized by the female protagonist’s words on her wedding eve: “We have all lost to reality.” The days of youth were filled with confident optimism towards the future, but this innocent hope exists at the mercy of reality, whose hardships test and eventually break young love and dreams.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Title: My Old Classmate
Director: Frant Gwo
Writer: Gao Xiao Song, Ao Li, Song Jin Chuan
Cast: Lin Geng Xin, Zhou Dong Yu
Run Time: 1 hr 38 min