Vicki's debut nostalgic, pity the rush

SCHOOL PROJECT: So Young, starring Chinese actress Yang Zishan and Taiwanese actor Mark Chao, is director Vicki Zhao's graduation thesis for a master's degree in directing from the Beijing Film Academy.


    Jun 03, 2013

    Vicki's debut nostalgic, pity the rush


    SO YOUNG (Rating to be advised)


    Romantic comedy/130 minutes

    Rating: 3/5

    REMINISCING about school days seems to be a sure-fire way of achieving box-office success - think Taiwan's 2011 hit romance flick You Are The Apple Of My Eye.

    This year, actress Vicki Zhao topped ticket sales in China with the subject in her final school assignment and directorial debut, So Young.

    Zhao's graduation thesis for a master's degree in directing from the Beijing Film Academy reportedly raked in 600 million yuan (S$121 million) over two weeks.

    Set in the 1990s, the film revolves around the college romances of 18-year-old Zheng Wei (played by Yang Zishan) and her girl pals.

    The movie is based on the popular Chinese novel Our Youth That Is Fading Away.

    The free-spirited Zheng steals the show with her crazy antics, literally upstaging the principal's song performance at a school event by belting out the 1990's Cantopop ditty Red Sun.

    Perhaps it's these simple, nostalgic moments that hark back to one's carefree school days and capture the audience's imagination.

    At one moment, Zheng is seen playing cards with the lads in the dormitory, and at the next, she's putting up a convincing act of going wobbly in the legs from diarrhoea, as an excuse for being late for class.

    While it is a school project, Zhao still manages to draw some major star power, with a cast that includes Taiwanese actor Mark Chao and Chinese actor-singer Han Geng, a former member of South Korean boyband Super Junior.

    The movie focuses on the relationships between Zheng and her two beaus: her childhood friend Lin Jing (played by Han) and college sweetheart Chen Xiaozheng (played by Chao).

    But the struggle that Zheng might be expected to face when choosing between Lin and Chen is largely non-existent, and Lin can be easily dismissed.

    The early parts of the movie - about two thirds of it - are dedicated to the characters' school days and are a joy to watch, being reminiscent of Taiwan's You Are The Apple Of My Eye.

    However, Chinese netizens haven't been too kind in their comments, with many giving their votes to the latter.

    Fast-forward to the characters' adult years, and it starts to feel like a mad rush to the finish line, as Zhao tries to pack in everything in the novel.

    The movie ends abruptly with a flashback of Zheng and Chen, leaving the audience bewildered.

    Like how some memories are best left in the past, So Young would have been complete if it was that way too.

    So Young opens on Thursday.