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My Old Classmate
My Old Classmate

Zhou Dongyu and Lin Gengxin in My Old Classmate.
Chinese: 同桌的妳  
Year: 2014  
Director: Frant Gwo
Producer: Du Yang
Writer: Gao Xiaosong, Oli Feng, Song Jinchuan
Cast: Lin Gengxin, Zhou Dongyu, Michael Sui, Essay Wang, Gong Geer, Mario Li, Sylvia Zhao, Poppy Cao, Zhang Zifeng, Shi Zhaoqi
The Skinny: Nostalgic youth romance that offers a few surprises amidst young love tropes, pretty young stars and tired clichés. Not a classic but the target audience should be well served by this commercial trifle.
 
Review
by Kozo:

Nostalgic young love is all the rage at Chinese cinemas, and My Old Classmate rides that trend gleefully. This is another film in a genre that includes So Young, Fleet of Time, But Always and even portions of American Dreams in China. Hot idol Lin Gengxin stars as Lin Yi, a successful yuppie working in New York City, who receives an invitation to the wedding of his childhood sweetheart Zhou Xiaozhi (Zhou Dongyu). Leaving his fiancée and posh lifestyle behind, Lin Yi hops a plane back to China while reminiscing about his quirky courtship with Xiaozhi. For much of their relationship, Xiaozhi allowed Lin Yi only a few minutes a day to be her boyfriend, with the minutes rising or falling depending on stuff going on at the time. One big factor in Lin Yi’s date minute allotment was his schoolwork – Xiaozhi would push Lin Yi to excel so that he could join her in university, and if he did better, he’d get more boyfriend time. Wow, it’s like parenting and dating at the same time!

Obviously, Lin Yi and Xiaozhi did not end up together so the story becomes about what they went through, plus what happens when they finally meet up again. My Old Classmate moves back and forth between past and present, with lots of voiceover detailing the development of Lin Yi and Xiaozi’s relationship while creating suspense for their reunion. Their nostalgic school days are sometimes rendered crassly; jokes can be sophomoric and performances and gags occasionally broad or lewd (well, by China standards anyway). Plot holes abound, some of them glaring (e.g., Xiaozhi’s father plays a big role and then conveniently disappears), and the supporting characters are basically ciphers. On the positive side, there are soaring bits of silliness, like the use of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” during an escape from a SARS hospital. Yep, the filmmakers reference the Beijing SARS scare along with other historical signifiers. This is a common device in this genre and it works fine here, though some may feel discomfort at the invocation of the 9/11 attacks. These references are intended to be felt, however, so I suppose the filmmakers succeeded.

My Old Classmate is throwaway cinema that’s hard to recommend to everyone, yet it serves up the hooks that its target audience expects. Besides all the first love tropes – which are satisfyingly delivered by handsome-but-not-threatening Lin Gengxin and too-cute-to-be-human Zhou Dongyu – the film manages a few surprising moments. No, not the common melodrama that causes Lin Yi and Xiaozhi’s relationship woes and certainly not the tired subplot about Lin Yi attempting to create a social network. I’m talking about a minor twist that acknowledges the realities of the big, bad grown-up world while also managing to suspiciously serve SAPPRFT-approved dogma. The twist may add subtle China fluffing but it also propels the film towards a cathartic, over-the-top and even poignant end. When the dust settles, My Old Classmate still hasn’t achieved much but its playful and occasional lowbrow sensibilities make it more enjoyable than its more serious and pretentious genre cousins. For mid-to-low end populist fluff, My Old Classmate does a bit more than expected. I guess we can call that a win. (Kozo, 1/2015)

 

Availability:

DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Kam & Ronson Enterprises Co.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin and Cantonese Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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