I was on a Delta flight and saw “Love the Way You Are,” or 我的青春都是你 as a Chinese film up for viewing. It looked like a sub-par romantic comedy, but I was surprised to find it a sweet Chinese love story that, even after the credits rolled, I still find myself thinking about it with a smile on my face. It’s definitely the best Chinese Love Story (rom-com) I’ve ever seen.
The rom-com has become a formulaic and a nearly dead genre in the West. Aside from “Crazy Rich Asians,” the rom-com has failed to make cinematic profit in decades. Hell, the genre has gone so downhill that there’s even a rom-com about how ridiculous rom-coms are.
And sometimes the only thing worse than a rom-com is an Asian rom-com. Korean rom-coms really take the cake here, especially when the majority of them focus on the much overused Cinderella arc: poor Korean girl meets rich corporate Korean man, and romance with intermittent drama ensues.
“Love the Way You Are” instantly hooked me because the female lead started off strong and stayed that way throughout the whole movie. When I say “strong” I don’t only mean that she is strong-willed, or even physically strong–her personality starts off powerful and, even when I least expect it, continues to grow.
Here’s why I found this movie immensely enjoyable.
The Man Gets a Makeover
Get this: in this movie, the female lead doesn’t have a cinderella moment. EVER. She wears jeans, a t-shirt, a ponytail and no make-up for the entire movie, which is just plain unheard of.
In almost every rom-com (especially the Korean ones), the ugly (or poor and misunderstood) female lead gets a pretty woman moment, usually thanks to the rich man who has the hots for her. She somehow gets the opportunity to wear a beautiful and expensive dress; put on some make-up and pretty up her hair. This instantly results in the male lead having the stereotypical epiphany of “wow, now that she’s hot, I realize I love her” moment.
On the flip side, this rom-com makes the man get pretty. This makeover was so intense, it even shocked me. I mean damn, look how nerdy this guy looks.
After his makeover, I was swooning. You’ll have to see the movie to see just Mr. Yuke’s transformation.
I had to double check when this movie came out, because one of the key songs for the film is “I don’t want to leave you alone” (or 我不愿让你一个人) by one of my favorite bands, Mayday (五月天). This song was released a long ass time ago (way back in 2010), yet despite that, the song plays in some of the most crucial moments of the film. Other songs in the movie are also well-selected and memorable. It brought me back to my old China days.
A “Fun” Twist at the End
This aint no profound plot twist like Bruce Willis’ sixth sense, but the spin at the end really puts a different take on the entire movie. It’s somewhat predictable, but still very heart warming to see played out.
A Positive Female Lead and Role Model
You heard me wax poetic about this female lead for the last few paragraphs, but I have to tell you why the lead, Zhou Lin Lin, truly managed to captivate and move me.
Because I didn’t just see Zhou Lin Lin on the screen. I saw my old friend from Tsinghua who made a mixed CD of her favorite Chinese songs to help me learn Mandarin. I saw my friend Chen’s wife who always cooked me fresh food from her province of Hunan when I came to visit. I saw my old colleague who brought me home-made congee to the office when she knew I was sick.
I saw Z. The girl who helped me move apartments in a pouring rainstorm, who brought me home for new years and made me watch a god-awful imperial drama with her parents, who told me my outfit looked like shit when no one else would, who said that I cooked Chinese food like a white girl, who always opened up her door for me when I was crying and had nowhere else to go.
Zhou Lin Lin represents all of the positive traits of Chinese women in one persona.
Not all Chinese women are like Zhou Lin Lin (obviously), but I hope that having an authentic and powerful symbol like her on the big screen will inspire younger Chinese women to find the best in themselves.
Yellow Flags… Cause Nothin is Perfect
- This movie still has a lot of cheesy and very stereotypical rom-com cliches. I admit, I cringed a few times, but it didn’t ruin the movie.
- The male lead, Fang Yuke, is kinda bland…
- … and he does something semi-creepy that reinforces so many negative stereotypes (watch the movie to see).
- It’s totally obvious that Fang Yuke falls into the “obedient Shanghainese husband” stereotype. Obviously nothing wrong with that, but he’s whipped all around.
- This movie makes Chinese Universities (and China as a whole) look way cleaner and nicer than the actual truth. Take these images with a grain of salt.
Watching this movie made me remember just how kick ass Chinese women are–and just how much I love and miss China.