By Emily Lee (Rochester)
The Taiwanese movie Our Times is a must-see coming-of-age rom-com that tells a heart-warming high school romance story while also providing a thought-provoking glimpse into adulthood and its endless possibilities.
The movie is mainly split into two time periods: a flashback into the protagonist’s teenage years in the 1990s that takes up a majority of the movie and brief scenes of the present that occur at the beginning and end of the film. It is introduced to us that Truly Lin, the protagonist, currently lives a relatively bleak life that is very different from what she hoped for as a teenager; she has a strained relationship with her fiancé and is overworked and underpaid at her mediocre job. When she overhears her younger colleagues gossiping about how they wouldn’t want to end up living a miserable life like her, it’s a wake-up call for her to reflect on her life, which she does by revisiting her old CDs and diary from that time period— ensuing in the aforementioned flashback sequence. In that sequence, we quickly learn that the beginning of her teenage years was definitely not the apex of her life as she wasn’t the prettiest or smartest girl in school, but was rather quite average and naive. However, throughout the course of the movie, she forms a friendship with an unexpected someone: the school’s bad boy Hsu Taiyu. The friendship blossoms into a reciprocated romance that brings out the best in both of them and sets the movie up for unforgettable success.
While a majority of the film was phenomenal, there were quite a few moments in the movie that could be described as “cringey but unavoidable,” mainly attributed to the storyline— not the acting or directing. The beginning of Hsu and Truly’s interactions included a perplexing chainmail sequence, fueled by Truly’s naivety, however this is ultimately necessary because it aligned their fates and caused them to interact for the first time. Another unsettling scene was the extremely melodramatic and unprecedented drowning attempt, but this was crucial because it gave depth to Hsu’s character by creating an opportunity to reveal his tragic backstory
One unexpected element of this rom-com was the thought-provocation I personally experienced in the first ten minutes of the film. Besides the obvious melancholiness of her adulthood, that somber reflection scene felt somewhat alarming to me because it represented the possible outcome of adulthood once the rose-tinted glasses of youth are off. It made me aware of reality and how you might be living in the “good old days” right now without knowing it. And although this takes place in the 1990s, some aspects of her experiences as a teenager were surprisingly relatable to my teenage experience growing up in the 2010s— proving some things will never change. However, as a college student with waning teenage years, I was brought to the personal realization that I am currently at a crossroads between frivolity and adulthood as I can relate to the struggles of both present-day and teenage Truly.
As a Korean-American accustomed to Korean dramas and American rom-coms, it is fascinating to see the parallels and differences between this movie and prior romantic-comedies that I have watched. The similarities lie in the usage of typical tropes utilized in this genre, while the differences are a result of the cultural and generational difference from what I used to. From the usage of songs sung by her childhood idol, Andy Lau, to scenes at the inline skating rink and the newly-opened McDonald’s, the scenery and soundtrack played an immense role in the successfully accurate depiction of Taiwan from the perspective of a teenage girl growing up in the ’90s.
The part of the movie that makes it so memorable among countless other media from this genre is the ending. While somewhat fantastical and unlikely, the ending is filled with references made prior in the movie which really ties everything together and makes it all come to a full circle. In fact, I would even say that the ending is what makes this a classic in the making, bringing it to the high ranks of the Korean classic drama, Boys Over Flower— an American equivalent would be Notting Hill. The unrealism of it is the very element that strikes a chord in so many. After all, what is a rom-com without a dash of fantasy? To all romantic-comedy lovers: add a little fantasy to your day with this absolute must-see!
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