Monday, July 15, 2013

You Are the Apple of My Eye

Saw this 2011-released gem of Taiwanese cinema yesterday and it's probably one of the best movies I've seen in a long time in its genre. It was originally recommended by a Taiwanese girl I had come to know while living in Korea, and after watching it I asked if it's possible to love a movie for being really solid but hate it for all the feelings and memories it makes you relive. I suppose the answer is yes, because You Are the Apple of My Eye ( 那些年,我們一起追的女孩) is one such movie.

The two main leads, Ko Chen-tung (the guy) and Michelle Chen (the girl), in You Are the Apple of My Eye
So, personal stuff aside, this here is your coming-of-age/romance "dramedy" (a mix of comedy and drama) set in the mid to late '90s that highlights the lives of seven characters: five guys, two girls. Four of the five guys are in love with one of the girls, the studious one, and the fifth guy, the main character, a free-spirited slacker, is less than interested in her and thinks she's stuck-up. His ill will is reciprocated because she thinks he's a no-good slacker who judges people while not doing anything significant himself. Long story short, they get thrown into a situation where they have to spend long hours alone together and realize they are kinda into each other.

A playful paper fight! Don't you remember doing this with your first love? I actually do, surprisingly.
Sounds fairly derivative, I know, but the film does not end the way you'd think, and the pacing, direction, and writing are so solid and quirky that it's really hard to get bored. I have this OCD-like habit of checking the run times of movies I'm watching just to see how much time is left (even if I actually like the movie) but I barely did it for this film. All of the characters, both main and supporting, have funny personality quirks, and despite the fantastic nature of some of the scenes, the story felt quite real to me. It's also a neat little slice of (albeit heavily sensationalized) Taiwanese school life (both high school and university).

I feel it appropriate to put a SPOILER ALERT here.

Oh, look! Ko Chen-tung won a golden horse for his performance! Did I mention it was a critical darling and one of the highest-grossing Taiwanese films ever?
As a generally romantic person, I found the film overall affecting. The main romance is your standard romantic comedy sort of romance, only with a much more (sort of) realistic twist at the end, in that it doesn't really pan out the way you want it to. The two "lovers" are great for each other but, due to circumstances, they never actually formally date each other for the duration of the film. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I've been in a number -- not a super-high number, mind you -- of relationships in which I was totally in love with the person I was dating, only to have it not really pan out in the long run after a year (or three), for myriad reasons but largely due to circumstances such as long-distance issues or bad timing. So this part of the film really resonated with me and I came to identify with the male lead at the end, when he said something to the effect of "In the end, when you see the apple of your eye walking down the aisle with another man, you can't help but feel happy for her." Speaking as someone who has maintained a positive relationship with nearly every woman I've been close to, I'd say that's pretty darn true (although none of them has actually gotten married yet). And so, while watching this film I was reminded of all the precious little moments I've had with my various past girlfriends (I'm currently single) in which I felt we were going to be young and together forever. Then, after the breakup, I would wonder what the hell happened -- until I applied hindsight and realized that things may not have been quite as perfect as I remembered . . . I'm getting way too carried away with this. Anyway, this is the sort of stuff this movie made me think about. Let's call it romantic nostalgia.

In the end it's kind of frustrating that the two leads don't end up together and makes you ask the age-old question "Why do people insist on making romance so damned complicated!?" But hey, that happens in real life all the time. Just 'cause two people seem to be made for each other and would doubtless be happy together forever doesn't mean they're gonna end up dating. And the film would not have been as affecting otherwise. Despite the fact that I've more or less spoiled the film for you, there are still numerous moments that make it worth watching, even if you know what's coming. There's a bit of humour, a bit of magic realism, and a whole lotta love. After all, it's not always about where you end up; it's how you get there that's most engaging.

Bottom line: If you like good movies and do not discriminate against romantic films, watch this movie. It's fun, charming, and sweet and you'll be glad you watched it.  

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