26 October 2015 | ctowyi
A Simple Story of First Love, Poison Chain Letters and Teenage Idols That is Well-Cast, Well-Acted, Well-Written and Thoughtfully Made
Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) is untouchable. Back in 1987 I first saw it with a guy and both of us loved it tremendously, but hated the fact that we had seen it with each other. On that same fateful day we cooked up a plan to double-date and watch the movie again. Of course we didn't tell our respective partner that we had seen it. What transpired during dinner after the movie is the stuff of stories. The girls looked at us completely awed with the priceless stuff that spewed out of our mouths. This is what happens when you see movies with cine-heads like us after mulling over a movie for some time - movies are not just movies; they are events. Some Kind of Wonderful has always been one of my "test" films for girls. I choose the girl for life based on her appreciation of it and to ace the test means how euphoric she becomes and how many joyful tears were shed. The girl who passed with flying colours eventually became my other half. You are now probably thinking whether you are reading the right review. The thing is Some Kind of Wonderful is not quite untouchable anymore. Our Times borrows the same formula and puts a new spin on it. It is right now the number hit in Taiwan this year and it is easy to see why.
The movie takes us on a 20-year journey through the life of the main character, Truly Lin (Vivian Sung). Seen mostly as a flashback to how her life wound up where it is, we follow Truly back to her senior high school year and watch as she teams up with TaiYu (Darren Wang) to break apart growing love between rivals Ouyang (Dino Lee) and Minmin (Dewi Chien). Through the course of the next year we watch all 4 teens mature, and in the end, nothing is as originally desired.
Our Times is ridden with age-old clichés and formulaic to a fault, but it still manages to stay fresh with a winsome cast and spot-on emotional beats. The movie wears its big heart on its sleeve and for anyone who was a student in the 80s the movie will envelope you in a bubble of nostalgia. If you ask me, nothing beats the 80s on so many levels. Like my "test" movie and You Are the Apple of My Eye (2011), Our Times is not about whether the girl/guy will get the guy/girl in the end. It is about whether the girl/guy deserves the guy/girl. Not many movie narratives dare to ask the question and this one plays the game so well that it will harken you back to the best of times - the time when saying "I like you" to the one you like is the hardest thing to do in the world because if you don't get a "I like you too" back it practically feels like the end of the world. Those are the times when the ills and pulls of society and familial responsibility have not put its deadly spell on you yet, and there is a wind beneath your feet and wings on your back. A sense of invincibility and fragility permeates your entire being. The movie captures all that for me and puts me in a warm place.
Our Times may feel like kids' stuff with a whole lot of slapstick, monster-teacher clichés and teenage stereotypes, but its pluses out-weigh the minuses. It is a simple story of first love, poison chain letters and teenage idols (mine was Seiko Matsuda and I carried a photo of her in my wallet ) that is well-cast, well-acted, well-written and thoughtfully made. Watching this is like witnessing little stars slowly going supernova. The chemistry between the leads burns like a bonfire and any movie that can somehow make me swim in the best years of my teenage life scores big-time. The last act has two major cameos that took me out of the story a little, but by then I was so vested in the characters that it doesn't matter anyway. Our Times crosses the finishing line with finesse and sent us going off into the rest of our lives with a bounce in our step. I hope it will be the same for you.