I was a super, duper lucky dog and Lady G of the Kfangirl blog offered me up a ticket for the Chinese movie Somewhere Only We Know, which is now playing here on the big screen. Funnily enough, I had been chatting with friends earlier that same day and one said, “I want to see that movie with Kris Wu, he’s supposed to be a dad.” And I was all, “Umm….isn’t he like five himself?” Who knew, just 24 hours later I’d be sitting in the theater watching that same exact movie.
Going in, I really wanted to like this movie because it was like a little present to me, but in all honesty I didn’t. I sat there, in the theater, wanting to love it, wanting to be enveloped into the story, but the story would turn, make a narrative leap, assume an emotional attachment with the audience it hadn’t earned, and I couldn’t get absorbed at all.
And before I go any further, to any fangirl reading this, no, it’s not because I don’t like EXO. Kris Wu was actually really good in the movie, I just wish he’d had a better conceived script to work with. Also, by the sounds of the awkward, inappropriate laughter around me by actual fangirls, I was not alone.
What was my biggest beef with the movie? It really was the story telling. The writer had some great ideas–one would say (hellz I would say) too many. There were so many things going on, that it didn’t delve beneath the surface at all and whenever the actors would start to get through to you, make you feel for the characters, the writer would be off again. The story could have just been about the current storyline, a heartbroken girl, having lost the last of the few people in her life who cared for her, goes to Prague to heal, become a different person and meets with a musician who struggles to care for his young daughter and bipolar mother.
Doesn’t that sound like an awesome movie? The emotional ins and outs could have been moving and spectacular. I was fascinated by the hero, played by Kris Wu, who was so young but devoted to his daughter who had been abandoned by her mother who was an international student. Since our heroine is also an international student, he is wary to love and to ask her to stay in his crazy life. The scenes he had with his mother were so sad. As someone who also grew up with someone who had a mental illness, I could totally connect to his love for his mother, his wanting her to move on and be better, and his frustrations that she couldn’t do that herself and how that meant he could not move on with his own life.
The heroine is just as damaged as her grandmother, the only living family she had has just died, and her fiance dumped her at the alter. She now has this post traumatic stress thing going on where she freaks out when people don’t answer the telephone as that has always meant horrible things in the past. She’s decided to go to Prague as an student as her grandmother had spent time there in her youth and she feels like this is her one last connection with her.
Interspersed in the storyline of the present is the story of the grandmother and her lost love, a widowed doctor in Prague. From various clues, the heroine digs up more and more of the grandmothers past and her love. While this took time away from our main storyline, I didn’t mind the passages in the past, I just thought they could have been done better. Perhaps they would have more of an emotional impact if there had been more of them? If the story had just been about the two current day lovers working together to discover the past? There was a movie that did this really well called Persuasion, and I highly recommend it. But by having the scenes in the past be so infrequent and brief, emotionally it lacked punch. I just didn’t feel this epic romance coming off the couple which was supposed to arch over decades. And just like the main couple, there was enough backstory between them where it could have been really good. The story takes place right after WWII, the doctor who lost his wife and daughter to the concentration camps, is trying to move on with his life, but is guilty for his own survival, hires a Chinese woman who had come to learn to paint at a local school but because he family had died, she had to start working. Through their interactions she brings him out of his shell, they fall in love, decide to start over again in China, and just as they are about to leave, he gets a call–turns out his wife isn’t dead.
How sad is that? And yet I felt nothing.
Both of these romances, and I’m a sucker for romance, just fell flat and again, I think it’s because the writer tried to put so much into the plot, that not enough time was given to the creation of these relationships–basically we have two cases of insta-love. So when I saw our hero being struck emotionally by the heroine, I just didn’t believe it. And then in the end, when they have their happily ever after, getting the ending the two in the past never had, it was a big eh.
It was more of a ‘I want to love these characters, I want to be swept up, I want to squeeee over their big swooping kiss, but I don’t so I feel hollow’ sort of feeling. Which makes Stephanie cranky.
Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that I just didn’t buy their impromptu breakup. If he really knew her? If he really cared for her at all, he would have known that this was a trigger for her. Known that being abandoned was all she ever knew, and he would have…I don’t know…explained it to her? Had a real conversation about themselves and what they wanted for the future? At one point in a fight she tells him that he doesn’t know anything about her because he doesn’t care to ask, and that fight happened probably about halfway through the movie, and while they got back together after that, we never got that conversation, he never asked her, at least on screen, about the serious things that were going on with her.
So, dear writer, sometimes less is more. And this movie could have been so much more. You created some great characters, had some awesome ideas, but the sin of greed and lazy predictable storytelling got you down.
As for other things I liked in the movie? Prague. I’ve always had a fuzzy idea that I wanted to visit Prague, but this movie and it’s gorgeous scenery, cinematography and lighting, just cemented the idea.
Also, I actually do want to give props to Kris Wu, and what I’m fairly certain was his first acting experience. He did a great job and I would absolutely see something with him again. He did as much as he could with the script as written, I believed him as a single dad, and his scenes with his mom actually did touch me. So, act on man, act on.
Would I recommend this to others? Hmmm…. that’s a hard one. As much as I said above, there is nothing horrible about this movie. It’s not a terrible way to spend a couple of hours, I just wanted more from it. So, knowing you guys, you’ll probably watch it anyway, so I say, go ahead, so watch it, and then come back and tell me what you think.