The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling

Flash Review: Our Times [TW Movie]

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You know a movie’s making a real splash when someone like me, who doesn’t have a clue (yet? I know I’m starting to pay more attention now) about TW entertainment has heard raves about this show.

From happy spazzy mentions on Twitter, to real-life enthusiastic recommendations from friends, I’d heard only good things about this movie. Considering how I don’t even generally pay all that much attention to movies except for Korean ones (and I’m not that thorough, even then), that’s no small deal.

I finally managed to watch this recently on a flight, and I must say, all those happy tweets and enthusiastic endorsements were so right. This one does get you right in the feels. ❤

Just to be clear, this movie is far from perfect. It’s clumsy in spots, and you could even say that the story leans predictable. But, there’s so much that this show gets right, that I can’t help spazzing anyway.

STUFF I LOVED

1. The Retro Awesome

There’s something about shows recreating retro worlds that gets to me and makes me feel all nostalgic and sentimental. That’s partly why I love the Answer Me series (reviews here: 1997, 1994 & 1988), and that’s partly why I enjoy this story world too.

This movie brings back all the retro awesome of the 1990s, from cassette tapes, to center-parted hair, to high-waisted loose-fitting pants. Pretty much everywhere you look, our story world is littered with memorabilia from the 90s. It’s matter-of-fact, yet at the same time, gloriously kitschy, and I loves it.

2. The universal relatability

Our protagonist

The thing that I love most about our protagonist Zhenxin (a name which translates directly to mean Sincere – which is so apt for her character, and which also explains why the subs translate her name as Truly), is that she is such an everygirl. Rather than the pretty girl at school, she’s the plain one who often gets ignored and overlooked. Seriously, how many of us can relate to just how ordinary she is?

I freaking love Vivian Sung’s delivery of Zhenxin, coz she’s completely gung-ho about getting uglified for the role, and embraces Zhenxin’s gangly awkwardness without a shred of vanity. I love-love-love how realistically, wonderfully, endearingly ungainly she is. ❤

I found it easy to relate to Zhenxin’s mortified, self-conscious chagrin every time something embarrassed her, and it brought back all kinds of growing-up memories of my own. Good times, all (not that I’d actually want to go back to live ’em again, heh).

The teen angst

Celebrity crushes, real-person crushes, friend zones and how to cope in them as well as how to get out of them, getting into trouble in school, growing up, and all the awkwardness and uncertainty that goes with it – all of these are brought to delightful, palpable life in the movie.

Even if you weren’t a teen in Taiwan in the 90s (like I wasn’t), these teen experiences are universal enough to feel familiar and relatable. I found it easy to engage with and relate to Zhenxin, as well as empathize with her – which effectively sucked me into her world. Really nice.

3. Darren Wang as Tsu Taiyu

Much as I love Vivian Sung as Zhenxin, I hafta say that Darren Wang capably steals the show, as male lead Tsu Taiyu.

As the school’s resident bad boy, Darren rocks the confident swagger and slightly slurry, lazy drawl. From the way he capably holds his own in fights, to how he struts the halls, every fiber of his being screams teen rebel. Yet, as Show peels back the layers to reveal Taiyu’s emotional wounds, Darren’s delivery takes on a lovely depth that I found very appealing. Beneath the bluster and bravado, Taiyu’s sensitivity, loyalty and vulnerability shines through beautifully, and I couldn’t help but feel for him, and root for him, and want all kinds of good things for him.

Add on Darren’s strong brows and his charming crooked grin, and I was very thoroughly mesmerized by Taiyu indeed. ❤

4. The growing bond between Taiyu and Zhenxin

I find that there is something particularly satisfying about watching two very different people come to understand and care for each other. I loved the set-up, of a bewildered Zhenxin finding herself in bad boy Taiyu’s circle. From the enforced “friendship” which had Zhenxin running all kinds of errands for Taiyu in exchange for the safety of her crush Ouyang Feifan (Dino Lee), we see this unlikely pair graduate to becoming comrades, then friends who truly care about each other.

The movie does a fantastic job teasing out their growing connection and relationship. I love that through it all, their feelings for each other – which evolve from tolerance, to loyalty, to genuine care, to romantic interest – feel consistently authentic and sincere.

Although their growing hyper-awareness around each other is all kinds of adorable and squee-worthy, at the heart of it all, it is their intense care for and loyalty towards each other that I found most profound. I love-love-loved these two together, So, SO Much. ❤

5. The Feels

Even though my teenhood wasn’t exactly like Zhenxin’s, so many elements of her life felt familiar and true to life. In some ways, watching these unfold on my screen made me feel like I was time-traveling back to my own teenhood, and feeling many of the feelings that I’d had, way back when.

Add on the very believable burgeoning feelings on both Zhenxin’s and Taiyu’s sides, and all the obstacles they faced while grappling with their conflicted teenaged hearts, and you get one very immersive watch experience indeed. These characters and their story stole my heart good and proper. And that’s not even counting how charmed I was by Taiyu himself.

In a word, feels all over the place, y’all. Flail.

STUFF I DIDN’T LOVE

So I understand that in putting in a present-day timeline, Show was working to set a present-day context for our teenaged protagonists. I also get that having a present-day timeline gave the production the opportunity to include more big names on its cast list, and that probably helped to increase this movie’s general presence.

In spite of all that, I personally feel that the present-day timeline didn’t add much to the story.

The movie begins in the present-day timeline, with Adult Zhenxin (Joe Chen) feeling like a loser at work as well as a loser in life, in general, and then transitions into a very long flashback, which is where our main story happens with our younger cast.

First of all, the transition between timelines felt rather clumsy to me. [MILD SPOILER] Going into the flashback, the camera focuses on the cassette player, thunder and lightning happens, and the buttons on the cassette player pop up and down randomly, before the camera pans out again in our flashback timeline. I thought this was a rather odd choice, since all that drama around the cassette player almost had me wondering if I was watching a time travel sort of movie instead. [END SPOILER]

Secondly, I never felt connected with the adult versions of our characters. It’s largely because we spent so much of the movie bonding with the younger characters, that when the characters showed up onscreen played by completely different people, it felt dissonant and foreign to me. I couldn’t, for the life of me, buy that Joe Chen and Jerry Yan were the same characters that I’d grown to love, and that affected my ability to appreciate the ending, in particular.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

OMG people. SO MUCH CHEESE. 😛

From Andy Lau appearing at a coffee kiosk and inviting Zhenxin to his concert, to Taiyu turning out to be the contact that Andy had instructed Zhenxin to call, to Andy’s recorded speech outside the concert venue about his friend (Taiyu) making efforts to make the concert happen, in order to fulfill a promise to his first love, to Taiyu having christened the concert 真心愛你 (which can be translated to mean Zhenxin, love you), it’s all cheesy to the extreme.

I confess that I cringed through it all, the first time I watched the ending. On subsequent viewings, I’ve cringed less, but that doesn’t change my opinion that this ending could’ve been stronger.

Partly, I didn’t think that it was all that necessary to have Andy show up, really. Mostly, though, I would’ve much preferred if Present Day Zhenxin and Taiyu had been played by Vivian Sung and Darren Wang. I know it requires both actors to play much older, but to me, that’s not something that wardrobe and makeup can’t fix. Just take a look at them here:

With a bit more adjustment, I’d totally buy them as Present Day Zhenxin and Taiyu, wouldn’t you? This way, I would’ve felt as connected to their characters at the end of the movie, as I did during the 90s timeline.

Failing that, I would’ve liked to see Present Day Zhenxin and Taiyu look at each other, but see Teenaged Zhenxin and Taiyu instead, if you know what I mean. Then we could’ve seen Teenaged Zhenxin and Taiyu deliver those reunion lines, before we watched them walk away from the camera, towards the concert venue. That would’ve definitely helped.

Essentially, in order to appreciate the movie’s ending, cheese and all, I needed to feel more connected to the characters, and the best way to achieve that, would’ve been to see Teenaged Zhenxin and Taiyu in the present day, somehow. I know we got a bit of that via intercutting flashbacks, but it just wasn’t the same, for me.

Unfortunately, as it stood, Show’s treatment of the ending left me feeling rather deflated and disconnected.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Flaws notwithstanding, Our Times stands out to me as a wonderfully engaging watch that grabs the heart, brings back memories, and ignites (all of) the feels.

Sure, there are things that I wish Show would’ve done differently, but it’s ok. We’ll always have the memories. And in my heart, I’ll always have these two, happy and content, together. ❤

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Warm, universally feel-good and full of heart. Definitely recommend.

FINAL GRADE: A-

TRAILER:

MV:

Author: kfangurl

Proud to be a k-fangirl since 2007. Main diet of kdramas with movies and kpop on the side.

22 thoughts on “Flash Review: Our Times [TW Movie]

  1. I agree that the ending could have been stronger but I still loved it! Joe was ok but Jerry barely had any screen time to make any impact. And I couldn’t quite see him as adult Taiyu.

    The school days portion was very relatable except I didn’t get a makeover and suddenly become a swan LOL. But the cassettes and the idol posters brought back so many memories!

    I dragged a very reluctant hubs to go watch it with me and he came away liking it too! Loved it for all the memories it evoked!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, that’s so cool, that you got your hubs to watch it with you, SOSsy!! 😀 And YAY that he ended up enjoying it! This show really does bring back all kinds of growing up memories. Now that you mention it, I didn’t get a makeover and become a swan either – maybe that’s this movie’s special appeal? As in, it brings back real memories, but mixes it with a dash of schoolgirl fantasy? Coz I know the makeover and falling for a bad-boy-making-good isn’t quite the norm for most of us, but it’s so cracky delicious anyway. 😉

      I do love the movie in spite of the ending.. But you said exactly what I felt: I couldn’t see Jerry Yan as Taiyu. His entire vibe and screen presence was so different that I couldn’t imagine they were the same person. Which is why I say that having Darren play Present Day Taiyu would’ve made the ending so much better, in my eyes. Oh, the missed opportunity. Still a lovely movie that I would recommend AND rewatch tho! 😀

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      • Darren playing adult Taiyu would have been so much better. Perhaps Director just wanted to include a couple of established names. Jerry just gave off the sullen man-of-few-words vibe which is more true to his real life persona than Taiyu’s haha

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        • Lol. That’s so ironic, that Jerry’s real life persona is closer to Taiyu’s than Darren! XD But it was Darren’s version of Taiyu that I engaged with and grew fond of, and I found it hard to buy Jerry as Taiyu. The two of them just bring a very different energy to the screen, imo.

          I’m pretty sure that the decision to cast Jerry as Present Day Taiyu had more to do with marketing and buzz than it did with an actual need in the script. 😛 All the additional big names would be sure to generate more media and fan attention. Still, I guess I should be grateful that this movie turned out as heartwarming and sweet as it did, so I shan’t wallow in the could’ve beens. ^^

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  2. “I would’ve liked to see Present Day Zhenxin and Taiyu look at each other, but see Teenaged Zhenxin and Taiyu instead” … hm, if by “to see” you meant the “i see you” from Avatar, then you’re spot on. but mere visuals (as the superficial stimuli they are) wouldn’t imo have helped convey the real message and that’s why i think they opted for this ending. we see that the Present Day Zhenxin and Taiyu are different from their teenage version (time does that to us :-P) but the cheesy ending kinda forces us think about “what we can’t see with our eyes”, about everything that’s still keeping the bond between them alive.

    anyway: thank you, i watched the movie based on your suggestion and i don’t regret it (even if the movie get’s only a B+ from me).

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    • Yes, sort of like the “I see you” from Avatar, in the sense that Present Day Zhenxin and Taiyu stand in front of each other and look at each other, but in their eyes, they each see Teenaged Zhenxin and Taiyu respectively. Coz you’re right, time causes us to change, but I would’ve like the moment to have been treated that way, to give us as an audience insight into the moment where the essence of who they are, meet all over again. Yes, it’s a romanticized notion, and you’d be right to point out that the essence of who they are has probably changed over time as well. But for several moments suspended in time, I would’ve liked to see Teenaged Zhenxin and Taiyu smile in happiness, as they find each other all over again. 🙂

      Glad that you enjoyed this one too, INTJ.. I do get your B+ rating, actually.. If I’d rated this with more of my head than my heart, that’s probably the rating I’d give it. But since this one grabbed my heart in a very real way, I thought an A- was fitting. 🙂

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  3. I’ve been wanting to watch this. Thanks for reviewing it. I think I may checking out tonight 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read everything you write, and when you wrote about this yesterday, I knew I had to check it out. I’ve become a bit burned out on Kdramas lately, and I needed something different, relatively quick, and super cute. This was that all the way! I’ve watched it twice in 24 hours because of how super cute and sweet it is. Darren Wang is my new favorite “If I was in high school, I would love you soooo much–but I’m a lot older, so admitting that is kind of weird . . .” actor, right up there with Ji Soo from “Angry Mom.” Zhenexin and Taiyu totally stole my heart with the thoughtful, subtle way they grew as individuals and as a couple. My favorite scene is near the end, in the rain, as Zhenexin runs away after finding out Taiyu is with another girl. She falls, and he runs to help her but she puts her hand to stop him. Why do I love it? Because he ran to her, something he hadn’t done before. Before, when she’d fall, he’d crack up. And she put up her hand because she knew him well enough now to know he would do that. I LOVE that!

    Thanks for the recommendation!!!!

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    • Ahh! I’m so glad you loved Our Times, holleyjane!! 😀 I feel you, on becoming a little burned out by kdramas.. sometimes, we do need something a little different to switch things up. And I totally get the Darren Wang and Ji Soo relation – they’re both so good at playing bleeding-heart misunderstood bad boys. It’s no wonder I loved Taiyu the way I loved Bok Dongie in Angry Mom. 😉

      LOVE your breakdown of the rain scene, btw. That is spot on, and I hadn’t pondered it to crystalize the thought, before you mentioned it. Thanks for shedding light on the meaning behind the scene, I love it!

      I hear that You Are the Apple of My Eye, a 2011 TW film, has a similar flavor to Our Times. I haven’t checked it out myself, but I’ve added it to my list, and thought you might want to consider it as well. ^^

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  5. I have a high level of trust in you 😉 and so I went straight to watch the movie after reading this, even though the limited amount of TW (and CN) stuff I’ve watched has been pretty disappointing.. I was nicely surprised. This was such a pleasant and heartwarming movie and I loved every minute of it and I loved how Zhenexin and Taiyu’s rather forced friendship slowly evolved into a mutually trusting relationship.
    Although Jerry (and his hair) didn’t completely convince me and i found the ending a bit of a bummer, the amount heart and feels this movie packs in makes for a warm and fuzzy watch. Plus the fact it brought back Answer Me 1988 vibes was even better..
    Anyway, thanks a ton for reviewing it and recommending it 😀

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    • Aw, I’m so glad you gave Our Times a go, naomi!! 😀 It’s been a fresh and eye-opening journey for me, venturing into TW and C dramas, and while not everything is worth raving about, there are some really great shows out there. Our Times is one of those shows. It’s so heartwarming and poignant, and so universally appealing. I enjoyed this a lot both times I watched it. And I loved Zhenxin and Taiyu together, so freaking much! ❤

      I totally agree with you, though, that Jerry didn't convince me that he was the Taiyu that I'd come to know and love. It's why I feel Darren Wang should've played Taiyu in both timelines. But still, such a lovely watch that I don't discount going back for Round 3, sometime!

      If you're looking for more AM1988 vibes, I've got 2 other TW things on my radar. One is 2011 movie, You are the Apple of my Eye. It's set in the 90s, and purportedly has a similar feel to Our Times. The other is currently airing drama Back to 1989 – which, from the half episode that I've seen so far, is a mashup of Back to the Future, AM1988 and a dash of Nine. I like the half episode I've seen, which is saying a lot. Most dramas take a couple of eps to settle for me, but I felt engaged right away, with Back to 1989. The downside is, this one is still airing, and has only aired 14 of its 22 eps so far, which means it will be another 2 months before it's done, since TW dramas only air an ep a week. Still, it's one to keep on your radar, if you like AM1988 and Our Times, I think ^^

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  6. Thanks for the recommendations (once again!). Since feeling miserable after watching Marriage Contract, I really needed a break from K-drama – sometimes I feel like the dramas are all just the same now… I have heard some spoilers about Apple of My Eye that makes me less keen to watch it, but Back to 1989 looks pretty quirky – sounds like an interesting premise 😄(I’m always a bit more wary of getting into the longer dramas though).

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    • Hey there naomi! Sorry this reply comes so late, Real Life’s been intense lately and I’ve had to give it my undivided attention. But, I just wanted to come back and say, if you’re looking for a quick spot of feel-good, I’ve heard very good things about Hear Me, which is a 2009 TW movie about the blossoming romance between a deaf girl and a delivery boy.

      You can watch the entire movie, subbed and in HD here. Just click cc for the subs. 🙂

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  7. Pingback: Just Watched: Our Times, Nobunaga Concerto and Mood of the Day |

  8. Great movie review. I too am a bit burned out watching dramas and was looking for a feel good movie or short drama. Can’t wait to watch this movie tonight!

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  9. Pingback: Flash Review: Suddenly Seventeen [Chinese Movie] | The Fangirl Verdict

  10. Wow. I agree. Darren and Vivian would’ve made sufficient adult versions of their teen characters. As much as I am a big fan of Joe’s and Jerry’s (the very reason i watched the film), their presence as the adult versions broke the magic of the ’90s recollection.

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  11. Wow. I agree. Darren and Vivian would’ve made sufficient adult versions of their teen characters. As much as I am a big fan of Joe’s and Jerry’s (the very reason i watched the film), their presence as the adult versions broke the magic of the ’90s recollection.

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