The Student News Site of Taipei American School




Why Does Our Times Work?


Lately, TAS students have been flocking to local movie theaters armed with tissue boxes. A few hours later, they are usually found playing a Taiwanese song on repeat and calling out the name of a certain “Xu Tai Yu” with tear-stained cheeks. That’s what happens to you when you watch Our Times (Wo De Shao Nu Shi Dai), this fall’s hottest Taiwanese chick flick.
Set in modern-day Taiwan, the film throws back to 1994 as a young woman reminisces about her bittersweet first love. As a senior in high school, Truly Lin (whose name is horribly translated, by the way), played by Vivian Sung, is unsurprisingly infatuated with the popular school prince, OuYang Fei Fan (Dino Lee). When she begins suspecting that OuYang is in a relationship with the school beauty, Tao Min Min (Dewi Chien), she teams up with school delinquent Xu Tai Yu (Darren Wang), who has a crush on Min Min, to break them up. Eventually–spoiler alert!–Truly and Tai Yu fall for each other. Also, somewhere along the way, Truly has a grand makeover and turns from an “ugly duckling” to a swan.
It’s not exactly an original, award-winning screenplay. For the first half of the film, the acting is rather subpar (though the lead actors are quite charming); at that point, it feels more like a parody of the cliche chick flick than one itself. But before I knew it, I went from ridiculing Tai Yu’s overly-waxed hair to fawning over his smile. In those two hours, I shed approximately five distinct tears, a relatively small amount.
My shift in attitude raises the question: why does this cheesy Taiwanese romance film work? And, considering the fact that the movie has grossed over 400 million NTD, why does it work for so many of us?
The answer lies beyond just this film in the uncanny ability of Taiwanese films to unpretentiously express certain emotions. Our Times has been dubbed the female version of 2011 Taiwanese box office hit You Are the Apple of My Eye, which features a similar, albeit male-narrated, flashback to a high school love.
In both films, narrators manage to charmingly mock their past selves while  simultaneously letting the viewer feel the gravity of their lost youth. Perhaps it’s the casual tone of Taiwanese slang and little bits of culture inserted, but both films never make you feel like they’re trying to do too much. In the end, it’s the sincerity of emotions and the light cases of grounded, simple humor that somehow make you take the film seriously on some levels yet not at all on others.
Our Times means many different things to its viewers. For some, it reminds them of their own youth, of growing up in Taiwan in the 90s, of chasing after idols like Andy Lau and of falling for boys and girls alike. For others, it reminds them of their significant others, or of lost opportunities and unspoken words. For me, though, it is a testament to the potential Taiwanese films have, unlike most films you’ll see in your lifetime, to be meaningful yet unpretentious at the same time. And that is something special.

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