You Are the Apple of My Eye * * *

Genre: Drama

Director: Giddens Ko

Writer: Giddens Ko

Cast: Ko Chen-Tung, Michelle Chen

Running Length: 110 minutes

Synopsis: A coming of age tale revolving around Ko-Teng (Ko Chen-Tung) and several close friends, who are all nursing crushes on honour student Shen Chia-Yi (Michelle Chen). Naughty in nature, Ko-Teng is ordered by their homeroom teacher to sit in front of Chia-Yi for her to keep close tabs on him. The two don't see eye to eye at first but Ko-Teng gradually falls for her, who is always pressuring him to study hard. On the other hand, Shen becomes impressed by the contrasting values he represents. A tentative courtship begins between the two, but both parties seem hesitant to commit to each other. 

Review: Nostalgia is a very powerful tool, and anyone who has loved and/or lost a sweetheart in the growing up years (and who hasn’t?) will certainly find You Are the Apple of My Eye to be a gently evocative, bittersweet experience. Based on Gidden Ko’s semi-autobiographical novel (the literal translation of the title for both the novel and movie is The Girl We Pursued Together In Those Years), this is a reasonably well-directed and well-acted film, and is largely (sadly, not entirely) devoid of the soppy melodrama that is rather prevalent in Taiwanese film and TV productions.

The film is split into three distinct portions, high school, university and the post-school years, with the high school part taking up the most screen time. It’s also the best segment of the film, with Giddens balancing drama and (admittedly puerile) humour with a deft hand, and is bolstered by excellent performances all round. The fresh-faced, young actors are perfectly cast, and newcomer Ko Chen-Tung is particularly impressive, exuding a charisma that is undeniable and hence a great fit for Giddens’ alter ego.

However, the latter two portions of the film take a little of the shine away, as the plot starts to wear the audience down, especially because much of the proceedings run along a pretty predictable line. The upside is that audiences who hate unresolved plot threads will have nothing to worry about, as everything is fully resolved by the time the credits roll. A more minor niggle is that there’s almost no attention paid to the aging of the characters, and they look almost the same throughout, even though the progression is approximately 16 years.

Though not a perfect film by any measure, there’s so much heart in You Are the Apple of My Eye that it’s easy to forgive its flaws. On a personal level, it turns out that Giddens (and hence all the characters in the film) is the same age as I am, and perhaps this is the reason why the film resonates with me on so many levels. If you are planning on watching only one Asian mainstream release this year, make it this one.

Rating: *** (out of four stars)

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