Despite being the typical Taiwanese teen romance fairy tale, Our Times is one that thrives within the genre
Directed by experienced Taiwanese idol drama producer but first-time director Frankie Chen Yu Shan and written by Tseng Yung Ting (both who were involved in Material Queen and Autumn's Concerto TV series), Our Times (我的少女時代) is a coming of age romance comedy drama about a white collar woman named Lin Zhen Xin (Joe Chen) who's dissatisfied with her life. She flashes back to her high school days, which she believes was the pivotal point of her life. The narrative enters her student life where her younger self (Vivian Sung Yu Hua) teams up with school bully Xu Tai Yu (Darren Wang Da Lu) to help each other woo their crushes, Ou Yang Fei Fan (Dino Lee) and Tao Min Min (Dewi Chien) respectively, who they think is in a relationship.
Audiences, especially Taiwanese, who grew up in the late 80s or early 90s may find this film highly nostalgic as the sets, costumes, character interests and situations do seem to be quite convincing if not overdone. So sit back and allow the film take you back in time where physical cursed chain letters were still a huge thing in school. As for the plot, just imagine the protagonist from It Started with a Kiss (2005) in a crossover of Meteor Garden (2001) and Devil Beside You (2005), with some ideas ripped off from Love on Delivery (1994) and My Sassy Girl (2001). Somehow, this didn't turn out a bad thing as all that formulaic fun and emotional ride are incorporated into a single movie.
By Taiwanese teen drama standards, it's a great performance by Vivian Sung (Cafe. Waiting. Love) whose role as Lin is basically an unpopular, less attractive and highly clumsy girl in school who daydreams about her idol Andy Lau and scores poorly in exams. She slowly (and typically) matures, transforms and "climbs the ladder" through her misadventures with the initially unlikable Xu, played by Darren Wang (Design 7 Love) whose performance as a cool Sakuragi Hanamichi-like rascal is nothing to shout about but he does indeed have the charm to carry it through. Sung and Wang's characters' crushes (Ou Yang and Tao) and friends seem like one dimensional characters serving as plot device and school-life atmosphere with zero substance. There isn't even a simple epilogue to tell the audience what happened to these characters after graduation.
The film starts off poorly due to the exaggerations and slapstick humour. Seriously, the film's jokes includes making fun of an obese female student and portray teachers as nothing but villains. However, with a running time of over 2 hours, there's sufficient time to gradually sink in and adapt to the film's tone. After a meaningful, profound moment in the second act, the film manages to achieve irresistible charm and sentiment, and from then on, the film is enjoyable despite the level of predictability.
Many would compare this to Giddens Ko's You Are the Apple of My Eye (2011) due to the obvious similarities but Ko's film is a sincere and honest depiction of his own school to university days. It is a superior story without question. Our Times on the other hand is a complete fiction targeted at female audiences filled with dramatic cliches, cheesy moments and a crowd-pleasing fairy tale ending, but it is not done without heart. The 100% predictable cliches, probable foreshadowing and cameo appearances by more famous stars in the final act made me believe this film may be a deliberate tribute medley of the genre's classics. Even if it's not intentional, it sure does make good use of cliches.
Malaysia censorship: Mosaics on middle fingers and porn magazines.
Second opinion: My girlfriend cried during a few scenes and of course, she liked the film a lot but agreed that You Are the Apple of My Eye was better.
Verdict: Highly watchable even for me, a male audience who's way past Taiwanese idol/teen dramas.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Click here to view photos of Vivian Sung, Darren Wang, Dino Lee and Frankie Chen's visit in Malaysia to promote the film's release.
Chinese Title: 我的少女時代 (Wo De Shao Nu Shi Dai)
Genre: Romance comedy drama
Running Time: 135 minutes
Director: Frankie Chen Yu Shan
Screenwriter: Tseng Yung-Ting
Cast: Vivian Sung, Darren Wang, Dino Lee, Dewi Chien
Malaysia Release Date: 22 October 2015
Local Distributor: 20th Century Fox Malaysia
Production: Hualien Media International
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