Deng era is in full swing, so that means China is getting down to business,
especially university students. A few
still find themselves preoccupied by love, but reality will trump storybook
endings in Red Cliff actress Vicki
Zhao Wei’s smash hit feature directorial debut, So Young (trailer
opens this year’s New York Chinese Film Festival.
Zheng Wei first encounters Chen Xiaozheng, there is so much friction, it must
be love. Frankly, she is not in the mood
for romance. She only enrolled in their
civil engineering university to be with her boyfriend from back home. Arriving to discover he has mysteriously
dropped out, she carries on as best she can.
For the most part, she gets on well with her three roommates, particularly
Ruan Guan, a tragic beauty with an equally problematic boyfriend.
a disastrous first meeting, Zheng initially declares war on Chen, but quickly
recognizes her true feelings. Soon she
starts pursuing the dirt poor scholarship student in a manner that rather
embarrasses both him and her friends. Romances
blossoms over time, but it will not last. Upon graduation, everyone splits up,
eventually reconnecting years later as dissatisfied professionals in the big
So Young sort of mirrors
the college experience, flirting with outright preciousness during its early
courtship scenes, meandering somewhat in the immediate aftermath of graduation,
but coming together quite powerfully down the stretch. One could think of it as the Chinese St. Elmo’s Fire, but the drama is
crisper and more honest, but the soundtrack is not nearly as catchy.
Zishan anchors the film with unexpected grit, vividly illustrating how youthful
pluckiness gives way to jaded toughness.
She commands So Young, but
Mark Chao counterbalances her rather effectively as the ever so reserved
Chen. However, the film’s real discovery
Cya Liu as Zheng’s spirited tomboy-ish roommate Zhu Xiaobei, who makes the
small but intriguing supporting role something special.
Zhao shoehorns a barrel full of subplots into a fairly brisk one hundred and
thirty-one minutes. She precipitously changes
the tone on a dime, but allows good scenes sufficient time to fully play
out. Indeed, So Young is a fascinating corrective to Chinese language rom-coms,
where love always wins out, such as the All’s
Well Ends Well franchise. While not
a complete downer, it certainly ends
in an ambiguous place, which is cool. If
not exactly perfect, So Young’s rough
edges are sort of appealing overall.
Recommended for fans of good looking melodrama, So Young screens as the 2013 New York Chinese Film Festival’s red
carpet opening night selection this Tuesday (11/5) at Alice Tully Hall.
Labels: Chinese Cinema, NYCFF '13, Zhao Wei