You Are The Apple of My EyeSunday, June 24, 2012 17:00
If you’re Chinese, you can’t help but be inundated by posts about how innumerable Facebook friends were moved by You Are The Apple of My Eye and how it left them teary-eyed. Clearly it does something right. It’s been a chart-topper in every Chinese-language market it has been released in and made instant stars of its two leads. So my wife was understandably insistent that we watch it, which we did this weekend.
I think it’s won’t be a surprise to readers of this blog that I don’t think very highly of this film. Teen love movies are a well-worn genre after all and unfortunately this film does nothing to break new ground. In fact, all too often director Giddens Ko falls back on familiar, overworn tropes. In fact, he explicitly lampshades it, ‘this is the fat friend, this is the joker friend, this is the plain girl who is the heroine’s constant companion’ because, you know, every teen love movie needs one of each.
And so we get the expected break-up scene in the rain, school friends enjoying a bonding moment on the beach and an annoyingly sappy, in-your-face, flashback montage to let audiences know that this is the exact moment that you are supposed to be moved. There are a few nice touches here and there, such as a surprisingly American willingness to employ phallic jokes, and the wackiness of acting out of the hopping vampire scene of the girls’ imaginations, but by and large, most of it is old hat.
So why is it such a success? One reason is that it’s a teenage love story that doesn’t target teens. Instead, like the Malaysian film Ice Kacang Puppy Love that was released a year before it, it targets audiences who have long since left their school years far behind. They’re well-entrenched in the working world, most likely already have a family complete with kids, drive full-sized sedans and have far too little time to just hang out with friends.
Yet they look back with rose-tinted glasses at a time when their lives were infinitely less complicated (even if it didn’t seem so at the time), when they could hang out for hours with friends doing nothing at all and feel no guilt at all, when they had to cycle to and fro from school and when friendships and love felt like they could last forever. In short, this film appeared at just the right time to push all the right buttons for the right crowd.
Another reason is that despite the lack of real artistry in this film, there’s a raw earnestness about it that makes it appealing. The two relatively unknown leads give excellent performances, lending their characters a freshness that wouldn’t have been possible with better-established celebrities. Then there’s the semi-autobiographical nature of the plot which grounds the film and makes it feel just that extra bit more sincere.
In short this is very much a pop commercial film made by a very obviously inexperienced director. It’s most impressive accomplishment is that it could well be the greatest high-school revenge fantasy enacted in real-life for its director. Want to show up your high school headmaster and teachers, not to mention your ex-girlfriend, who always thought you were such a loser? Film a movie about it in your actual old high-school and have it be acclaimed as an international success. That must be way more satisfying than having to kiss the ex-girlfriend’s groom.