Sunday, October 30, 2011

You are the Apple of My Eye | 那些年, 我们一起追的女孩 [ Movie Review ] ★★★★1/2

The Pitch

Touted as Biggest Ever Opening Day and Weekend Box Office for a Taiwanese film (remained as Taiwan Box Office champion for three weeks), You are the Apple of My Eye ( 那些年,我们一起追的女孩 literally means The girl that we wooed during those years ) marks a revival of Taiwanese films that getting commercial release here in Singapore. This coming-of-age movie is based on a popular autobiography book by Giddens (九把刀 or Nine Knives) and it's selling like hot cakes in Hong Kong (No.1 at Hong Kong box office and out selling it's nearest competitor Life without Principle by about 2.65 times). 

What makes this school days romance movie so popular in Taiwan and Hong Kong? The trailer gave the impression that it's going to be another routine romantic comedy with good looking actor and actress. The director. Giddens is primarily known for his novels and this movie somewhat marks his first directorial debut. To have such a result for his first main feature is pretty impressive. 

Perhaps there's something special about this box office champ that getting a commercial screening like it's predecessors, Monga and Cape. No 7. Let's find out what the X-factor in this movie.

The Plot

The movie started with the introduction of the protagonist, Ko-Teng (Ko Chen-tung 柯震東) and his close friends. They are distinctively different with their own special quirks However all his friends had something in common and that's having a crush with the class monitress, Shen Jiayi (Michelle Chen 陳妍希). For the longest time, Ko-Teng could not understand why his friends got the hot for her as he felt that she was only slightly prettier than the rest of the female classmates and there's nothing special about her.

After getting into trouble with their homeroom teacher, Ko-Teng was made to sit in front of Shen Jiayi. Being one of the top students in school, Shen Jiayi was tasked to keep close tabs on him and supervise his school works. The two of them resented the arrangement initially and started bickering until an incident in class changed the dynamic between them.

Shen Jiayi started to prepare extra homework for Ko-Teng and forced him to stay back after class for revisions. Romance blossom between the both of them but the usually outspoken Ko-Teng couldn't find the courage to propose to Shen Jiayi. With graduation looming, could their puppy love withstand the long distance test as they head towards different universities?

The Perspective 

You are the Apple of My Eye turned out to be surprisingly good. I didn't have much expectation for this coming-of-age romcom but it came out of nowhere and stole my heart. Without any surprises for this coming two months, You are the Apply of My Eye is likely to emerged as the best movie of 2011 for me. If I would to narrow down why this movie worked for me, it would because this movie got heart and soul. It wonderfully captures the wooing process and school days romance. Folks who had "similar" experience at school, they would find this movie easily relatable and heart wrenching in many ways.

Before lapping it with more praises, this movie isn't without it's faults. Some jokes and gags missed the spot entirely. At times, the movie can get rather crude, long winded and even tedious to follow at times.

But the payout at the end made all the wait worthwhile and the flaws forgettable. Especially the last ten minutes of this movie when all the build ups came into a satisfying wrap up. It was said that the director had decided to make this movie when the idea for the closing moments came to his mind. It was an excellent decision as the ending was one of the most beautiful yet poignant endings to coming-of-age school days rom com.

One of the biggest discovery for this movie would be Giddens, the director cum writer for this story. I have not read any of his Chinese novels and this first encounter with his work had impressed me much. He is pretty talented in telling a story and has an inventive touch in approaching materials that had been done to death. If imagination is intelligence having fun, it's not hard to see that Giddens is having a hell of time with this movie.

He had also made a good casting choice for this movie. You are the Apple of My Eye worked due to the casting for the two leads. Michelle Chen is lovely to watch and possess a certain special on screen flair that makes it easy to believe that so many guys would fall for her. Without her to breathe life into the objection of affection in this movie, You are the Apple of My Eye would not have work this well.

Likewise, the hunky newcomer Ko Chen-tung turned in a pretty good performance. As the protagonist, he had to carry the bulk of this movie and he did it in an effortlessly charismatic fashion. Whether the scenes  requires him to be comedic, suave or downright emotional, he managed to aced most of those scenes. Without a doubt, I will keeping tabs on these two actors future works.

After recommending this movie to a fellow movie lover, I was told that this type of movies come every five or ten years. The movie does have it's flaws but the heart of this move could easily hide those flaws. Highly recommended for those who wants to reminisce about their school days romance or currently going through some form of dilemma in romance.

Rating: ****1/2


During the credits roll, there are some scenes of the boys heading to play baseball and talk about their future and writing a book that this movie is based on. The real fun would be at the end of the credit roll when the director played a prank on Michelle Chen. Definitely worth staying back for.

Beyond the Movie

Sadly, this popular movie had cause much distress to the real Shen Jiayi. She had to take a year off from work and left for China to escape the Taiwanese press and the "overly resourceful" online fans. It seemed that the director / writer Giddens Ko was equally affected by the success of his movie and the trouble that it's causing for the apple of his eye that he is avoiding any talk about her to the press.


  1. I walked out halfway through the movie. The "autobiography" is not credible. Jerking off in class? Come on. Am I supposed to believe that was common practice in Taiwanese high schools back then? How about now? Didn't happen in my high school and I know of no one who did that or in any other schools. Could the director have made it up for laughs? I don't relate to that. Also, tell me why the teenager and his father are naked in their own house while the wife/mother is fully clothed. What is the director trying to tell us about these characters? I would have enjoyed the movie more if she was naked too. And what is so funny about shouting out "fuck you" to his neighbor? Am I to believe it is common practice for Taiwanese to swear in English while they typically speak barely a word in English? All crude manipulations by the director. I will try to watch the second half of this movie if it gets nominated for "Best Foreign Film" by any international film academy.

  2. Hi Paul,

    Most "Autobiography" movies aren't entirely faithful to actual events. There's some creative changes made so that it can be more entertaining and perhaps have a bigger impact for the viewers.

    Ko-Teng didn't jerk off in class (with his fren in a competition style). He was made to sit in front of Shen Jiayi because he talked during class. The director that that it would be more cinematic and funny to use the jerk off competition as a plot device to shift Ko-Teng's sitting position in class. Personally, I thought it was pretty creative and amusing.

    Regarding the naked father and son, I remembered Ko Chen-tung (Ko-Teng) once said that it was his idea and not Giddens. I felt that he was pretty brave to do that and it had an endearing effect for me. What was the director trying to say? Perhaps the father and son were more comfortable in their own naked skin while their mom is more conservative.

    Actually if you looked closely, you can see that the father was actually wearing a short. Not sure if it's a goof or that the dad was not as open as the son.

    From what I know, most of the Taiwanese people can't really speak English and the best (and easiest) way to learn a foreign languages would often starts from swearing with it. Instead of passively learning from the text book, Ko-Teng was aggressively using English words in his exchange with his neighbor. That's why the "Fuck You" between the neighbor scenes were so funny.

    I am not going to deny that there are some crude manipulation by the director. There are even some scenes that needed to brush up. But as a "1st" time movie director, he did pretty well in presenting the heart of the movie. It's kinda sad that you walked out of the movie because the best part of the movie was the unexpected montage at the end.

    But then again, at the end of the day, the movie works best if you could relate to it (school days romance, first puppy love, chasing after a girl with your friends and etc) or enjoy it's brand of "childish" "crude" humour. Don't wait for some international film academy to decide for you as there's usually a lot of "politics" involved with their nomination and awards. It's fun to see which movies are being selected but don't use film awards as a benchmark for good movies.

  3. Paul, I agree with most of what you said and I simply love the final scene, almost burst into tears. But I can understand people from different culture may find it hard to relate. For those who can, exaggeration only makes this film more dramatic and believable. Definitely one of the best Asian films this year.