Yesterday’s film was the Chinese take on the days of youth, and today, we get the Taiwanese perspective through the 2015 Taiwanese box office hit Our Times.
Set in the mid 1990’s when skating rinks were all the rage and The Four Heavenly Kings of Canto-pop were every girls’ Prince Charming, Our Times tells the story of Lin Zhen Xin (Vivian Sung), an ordinary Taiwanese high school girl whose life changes forever when she crosses paths with the school bully, Xu Tai Yu (Darren Wang). Initially wanting to make Lin Zhen Xin’s life terrible, Xu Tai Yu takes pleasure in treating Lin Zhen Xin like a personal maid, but when he realizes that she has a crush on the school’s top student (Dino Lee), who happens to be dating the girl he likes (Dewi Chen), Xu Tai Yu enlists Lin Zhen Xin’s help in breaking up the couple so that they both have a shot at their respective crushes. What ensues is a hilarious sequence of pranks gone wrong and an unlikely friendship that blossoms into something more.
I’m actually a bit disappointed that I won’t be able to write a well-thought out review on this amazing film because I had a hectic day and my writing capabilities aren’t currently functioning. Therefore, I apologize in advance if something doesn’t make sense or if my writing flow is a bit off. I’ll definitely try my best to write a somewhat decent review though, and I might update this post later this week with more meaningful, coherent content, if I have time.
Despite its cliche plot, Our Times is able to add some original twists to its story. For example, the characters are not your typical nostalgic film figures. Lin Zhen Xin, the female protagonist, isn’t some campus beauty, like many of the other female leads in similar Chinese films. Instead she’s your average girl with a bit of clumsiness and naivete. She stumbles over her own feet, doesn’t have any idea on how to dress fashionably, and has been struggling with unrequited love for years. Making the female protagonist the 99% of the female population instead of that top 1% is a fresh twist that Our Times offers to the Chinese nostalgic genre, which so often has focused on “perfect” female leads.
I also really liked the innocent nature of the romance within the film, which differentiates it from other movies in its genre. In many romantic movies today, truly loving someone is always equated with having to do something physical. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against a kiss or a hug; in fact, sometimes I’m quite happy to see the couple I’m rooting for seal their love with a kiss. But the problem is that many romantic films are going overboard with physical interactions, which often leaves me wondering whether the love I see on the screen consists of sincere feelings or just lust and raging hormones. But in Our Times, the romance portrayed is so pure and so genuine that it ends up being one of the most touching love stories I’ve seen in a very long time. In fact, there isn’t even a single kiss in the movie, but that doesn’t bother me, for the characters’ words and actions alone are already powerful enough to convey this touching tale of sincere first love.
Our Times is also different from other nostalgic films because of its optimism. Unlike a lot of the Chinese films, such as yesterday’s My Old Classmate, which seem to think youth holds a certain beauty and joy that can never exist in the adult world, Our Times encourages viewers to hold onto the spirit of youth, for as long as we try to keep the spirit of youth, it is possible to find that same beauty and joy in our adult lives. This optimism is emphasized in the film’s moving conclusion, which actually left me in a small puddle of tears.
Even though the film features a cast filled with newcomers, the actors all delivered great performances, especially Vivian Sung, who plays the female lead and received a Golden Horse nomination for best actress for her role (The Golden Horse awards are the Taiwanese equivalent of the Oscars). Our Times was also Director Chen Yu Shan’s first film, and she did a fantastic job, as evidenced by her Golden Horse nomination for best director. Her hard work and desire for perfection can be seen through her strong attention to detail and ability to use everything, ranging from the music to the setting, to really touch her audiences. The theme song for the film “A Little Happiness” is a great listen as well, and the lyrics are beautifully written.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Title: Our Times
Director: Chen Yu Shan
Writer: Sy Tio
Cast: Vivian Sung, Darren Wang, Dino Lee, Dewi Chen
Cameos: Joe Chen, Jerry Yan, Andy Lau
Run time: 2 hrs 11 min