Director: Lai Meng-Chieh
Cast: Mason Lee, Shao Yu-Wei, Tsai Jui-Hsueh
Runtime: 1 hr 42 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Nudity)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Opening Day: 14 November 2019
Synopsis: Have you ever experienced a teenage romance that hurts? Jiu Bing (Mason Lee) has been in the friend zone of Bo He (Shao Yu-Wei) since he was twelve. Even though he tried everything in order to win her heart, he is being friend zoned by her. When working as a part-time pace runner, Jiu Bing met Xia Tian (Tsai Jui-Hsueh). By chance, they later became internet celebrities. After placing Bo He as his priority for a long time, Jiu Bing gradually realised the role he plays in Bo He’s life, and has finally found where his heart belongs to.
It all started with You Are The Apple Of My Eye (2011). From then, audiences have been gotten used to Taiwanese romantic comedies with extremely good looking people falling head over heels with each other, indulging themselves with exaggerated notions of love and realising that life isn’t a bed of roses. Few have stood out from the crowd, and fortunately, this one does a decent job – thanks to its endearing lead actors.
Adapted from Song Xiaojun’s novel “Pace Runner”, the concept is interesting. Our protagonist is Jiu Bing, a university student and part time pace runner (played charmingly by American born Taiwanese actor Mason Lee, who is better known as critically acclaimed director Ang Lee’s son) who has sworn to protect his childhood friend Bo He (a very likeable Shao Yu Wei) forever.
When he is forced to live off campus, their friendship takes a toll when she begins falling for the school jock. Enter the landlord’s eccentric daughter Xia Tian (a cute but not irritating Tsai Jui Hsueh), who is trying very hard to hide her own feelings for the clueless dude while helping him win Bo He’s affection.
As a mainstream piece of entertainment, this movie helmed by first time director Lai Meng Chieh is easy to like. There are funny moments (courtesy of Jiu Bing’s sidekicks), saccharine sweet scenes (Shao and Tsai get their fair share of screen time with Lee), as well as inspirational moments (in a memorable sequence, Jiu Bing enthuses his male schoolmates to strip naked to intimidate the playboy who hurt Bo He). With these elements in place, the 102 minute doesn’t feel dreary.
It sure helps that the lead cast is a pleasant bunch. After playing a slew of supporting roles in movies like The Hangover Part II (2011), Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016) and Who Killed Cock Robin (2017), Lee is the main man here. While he doesn’t have your typical good looks, the 29 actor is a guy you’d want to bring home. One scene sees him laughing uncontrollably at his roommates bad pick up lines – find a nice dude like him and stick with him forever, we say. Shao’s charismatic screen presence will bring her places if filmmakers cast her in more movies, while Tsai takes on the responsibility of playing a supporting character that silently holds up the man of her dreams from behind. She does a fine job, and one sequence of her professing her love at a graduation ceremony is especially moving.
The story momentarily makes you think about how romantic relationships play out in real life, and how we experience phases which may have deemed serious at one stage, and extremely trivial when you recall them years later. This film manages to evoke that sentiment, and you may remember a stage of your life when someone really mattered. Such is life, and it will continue to be a theme effectively explored by this genre of Taiwanfilms. The studios just have to make sure that the characters are good looking enough to inspire viewers.
(A likeable romantic comedy that reminds you about the purity of young love)
Review by John Li