You Are the Apple of My Eye 那些年，我們一起追的女孩。
2011, colour, 2.35:1, 109 mins
Directed by Giddens (九把刀)
By Derek Elley
Wed, 05 October 2011, 10:35 AM (HKT)
Likable but lightweight compendium of high-school romances, well cast and slickly packaged. Asian events, plus niche TV.
Changhua, west coast of Taiwan, 1994. Sixteen-year-old Ko Ching-teng (Kai Ko) is a pupil at Chingchang High School, along with his pals "Boner" (Yen Sheng-yu), the serious "Fattie" A-ho (Steven Hao), the bragging "Cock Tsao" (Owodog) and the lascivious "Groin" (Tsai Chang-hsien). All have a crush on the brightest student in their class, goody two-shoes Shen Chia-yi (Michelle Chen), but she is only interested in her studies. When Ching-teng and Boner are caught fooling around in class, Ching-teng is made to sit in front of her and is put under her personal supervision. Chia-yi makes it her personal mission to get Ching-teng interested in taking schoolwork seriously, and eventually his marks start to improve. Gradually, their early antagonism turns into something more than friendship, though Ching-teng never openly declares his liking for her. On graduation day, Chia-yi whispers to her best friend Hu Chia-wei (Wan Wan) the name of the boy she likes the most. During that summer, in 1997, the group of seven spend their last carefree days together before going their separate ways to further education. Chia-yi goes to National Taipei University of Education, while Ching-teng ends up in a college in Hsinchu, south of the city, where he forms a new group of friends but still phones Chia-yi every day. The two see each other but Ching-teng still holds back from officially "dating" her. To boost his sense of pride, Ching-teng organises a fight tournament at his college but gets soundly beaten. After an argument with Chia-yi, who's appalled by his immature behaviour, he walks away, and it looks like the two will never see each other again.
After his directorial debut with the quirky first segment (三聲有辛) of episode film L-O-V-E 愛到底 (2009), popular internet novelist Giddens 九把刀, 33 — whose Chinese pen-name means Nine Blades, from his love of martial arts stories — makes a confident feature debut adapting his own autobiographical novel of high-school pranks and romance. Made with the same two executive directors, LIAO Ming-yi 廖明毅 and CHIANG Chin-lin 江金霖, it's so slickly packaged in every department that it's easy to miss the fact there's nothing at all original here. With the usual laddish jokes about sex and masturbation, fooling around behind teachers' backs, bicycles and train lines, copious voice-overs by the male lead, and a light sprinkling of '90s nostalgia, You Are the Apple of My Eye 那些年，我們一起追的女孩。 (2011) is a lightweight compendium of every Taiwanese high-school movie about impossible love and one's dreams for the future.
Set (and even filmed) in Giddens' own high school in Changhua, it's one of those films where it's impossible to separate fact from fiction. The story's main character, 16-year-old Ko Ching-teng 柯景虅, is Giddens' real name, and Taiwanese web cartoonist Wan Wan 彎彎 plays her teenage self, Hu Chia-wei 胡家瑋. But despite all the in-references, and local slang and wordplay, the movie has an easy charm that makes it accessible to audiences beyond Taiwan. It's always smartly composed in widescreen, and punched up with occasionally jazzy visuals, but Giddens never lets technique get in the way of characterisation, and his cast is both well-chosen individually and relaxed as an ensemble.
Newcomer Kai KO 柯震東, as Giddens' alter ego, shows charm to spare without too much cockiness or mumbling, and has natural chemistry with Michelle CHEN 陳妍希 (the deaf swimmer in Hear Me 聽說 (2009)) as the girl he just can't bring himself to declare his love for. Of the two, Chen in fact has the harder role, making prissy class swat Chia-yi into a likable character; but the actress, who's pretty but not distractingly so, nicely moderates the role by small degrees throughout the film. Apart from a slightly draggy second half, the material sustains itself at almost two hours, with generally trim editing by co-executive director Liao. At its core, Apple is a simple teenage rom-com, a will-they/won't-they between two opposites, but capped by a neat finale that does deliver some real emotion.
The large number of supporting performances are deftly etched, with many of the cast playing considerably younger than they actually are. As the fattie and the bragger, Steven HAO 郝劭文 and Lollipop F boyband vocalist Owodog (敖犬, aka CHUANG Hao-chuan 莊濠全) stand out among Ching-teng's schoolpals, while among the older actors Lotus WANG 王彩樺 has some treasurable comic moments as Ching-teng's mother, completely unfazed by the habit of her son and husband walking round the house stark naked. In the standard role of the heroine's best schoolfriend, Wan Wan, now 31, convincingly plays herself as a teenager and makes one regret her character was not developed more.
The film's original title means The Girl We Chased After in Those Days.
ContactSales: Sony Music Entertainment Taiwan, Taipei (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Premiere: Taipei Film Festival (Gala Premiere), 25 Jun 2011. Theatrical release: Taiwan, 19 Aug 2011.
Presented by Star Ritz Productions (TW), Sony Music Entertainment Taiwan (TW). Produced by Star Ritz Productions (TW). Executive producers: Angie Chai, Adam Tsuei. Producer: Angie Chai.
Executive directors: Liao Ming-yi, Chiang Chin-lin. Script: Giddens. Novel: Giddens (The Girl We Seeked For in Those Days, 2007). Photography: Chou Yi-hsien. Editing: Liao Ming-yi. Music: Chris Hou. Music direction: Jamie Hsueh. Art direction: Shen Chen-chih. Costume design: Hsu Li-wen. Sound: Kuo Li-chi, Tu Duu-chih.
Cast: Kai Ko (Ko Ching-teng, "Ko-teng"), Michelle Chen (Shen Chia-yi), Steven Hao (Hsieh Ming-ho, "Fattie" A-ho), Owodog (Tsao Kuo-sheng, "Cock Tsao"), Tsai Chang-hsien (Liao Ying-hung, "Groin"), Yen Sheng-yu (Hsu Bo-chun, "Boner"), Wan Wan (Hu Chia-wei), Wang Tsai-hua (Ching-teng's mother), Ko Yi-hung (Ching-teng's father), Megan Lai, Denny Huang.