Chinese Title: 'Wo Ke Neng Bu Hui Ai Ne' (directly translates to I May Not Love You)
No. of episodes: 13
Ariel Lin as Chen You Qing
Wilson Chen as Li Da Ren
Lin Mei Xiu as You Qing's mother
Luo Bei An as You Qing's father
Sunny Wang as Ding Li Wei
Jassie Chen as Maggie
Teresa Meng as Li Tao Tao
Zhou Dan Wei as Da Ren's mother
David Hsu as Nic
Can I just say I freaking loved this drama? Funny, touching, and familiarly urban, In Time With You is easily the best Taiwan had to offer in 2011.
This series was on my radar as soon as it was announced, mainly because it was lauded as Ariel Lin's last series before she took an acting hiatus to focus on her health. And with its Dawson's Creek meets My Name is Kim Sam Soon storyline, I was eagerly anticipating its release.
Unlike most series, I was not disappointed. Your thank-you card is in the mail, Taiwan.
The set-up is quick. You Qing is running from two gorillas in a department store. You read that right, gorillas. They are a weak metaphor for age, as You Qing has just turned 30 and is still 'gasp' single. The silly gorillas very nearly made me give up on this drama 10 minutes in, but Ariel Lin and her wardrobe convinced me to stick with the series. And I'm glad I did, because as soon as the gorillas disappear, In Time With You becomes awesome, transforming from a little drama that could, to a little drama that did.
Its plot is nothing new. I doubt anyone under 20 will fully appreciate its plot, and its dual theme of unrequited love among two best friends, and a just-turned-30 woman on a mission to find love before her best guy buddy does is ambitious ground to cover in such a short time (a brisk 13 episodes). However, its polished script, assured storytelling, and terrific acting both engages and entertains ' and the series never feels rushed, even delivering a conclusion that is both fitting and satisfying. There's hope out there, people.
The series' success rests heavily on the two leads' shoulders, who deliver compelling performances and make their characters real and wholly identifiable.
Ariel Lin is my favourite Taiwanese actress, bar none. Though You Qing is a 180-degree flip from both her past roles and real-life personality, Ariel Lin plays her as if the character was written with her in mind. Gone is the childish, bumbling, naive Xiang Qin from It Started With a Kiss. Here she embodies the modern woman who is righteous, vocal, stubborn, and yet fiercely loyal and caring to those she loves. My favourite scene has the boyfriend forcing her to choose between him and Da Ren, and without skipping a beat, she responds 'I choose Da Ren. Don't ever make me choose between you and Da Ren, because I will choose Da Ren every time”. This one-minute scene spoke volumes about the type of person that You Qing is. Yes, she is getting older and wants to find someone while there's still a market out there, but she will not compromise on something that is valuable to her to attain that goal.
It was amazing to watch Ariel in this new role. Her voice is different: lower, blunter, crisper. Her body language is different. Instead of the sharp, giddy movements from ISWAK chasing Zhi Shu around, she moves with the maturity of a female urban office worker, clunking around in her heels. But the best has got to be her scenes with Da Ren, the person she is most comfortable with. Here, she loses the body language that modern urbanity demands. Instead, she takes off her heels in a public place and puts up her feet. She lounges lazily in chairs with her messy hair and huge geek-chic glasses. She bickers with him in front of her parents. The big moments, the little moments - Ariel nails them all.
Though Ariel unsurprisingly impresses, it is Wilson Chen's Da Ren who anchors the show. His performance as the unassuming, low-key, I'm-just-a-normal-guy Da Ren was a delight to watch and will strike a real chord with any girl who just wants a guy who isn't a total d-bag. Though he doesn't have the idol looks nor the suaveness (neither of which are necessary for the character anyway), I can't imagine anyone else suiting the character so well, or having such an understanding of Da Ren's psyche. A hero who is in love with the heroine from the start for years - without having her go through some huge makeover or personality change, who is content to be on the sidelines (to not jeopardize their friendship) but remains unwavering in his devotion, honest advice, and support is easy to root for. The way he looks at You Qing, the way he takes care of her parents, and the way he plays middle man in his own family is indicative of a truly decent guy who You Qing thankfully learns to appreciate. By the way, I've never seen this guy before (I think he was in Blue Gate Crossing but I can't remember). A huge surprise and I can't fault his performance here.
Not only do the pair deliver fantastic individual performances, their chemistry pretty much carries the entire storyline. The two are so comfortable with each other, so at ease, that when they finally do step over the line into coupledom, it is natural and never feels disturbing, as similar friends-then-lovers plotlines often become. They didn't get together because of some squeal-worthy piggyback scene. They got together because of mutual respect, because they never run out of things to talk about even after 15 years, because they are each other's first choice to run to when one encounters problems. They are equals, companions, and they will make you want to call up your best guy/gal pal to confess your long-harboured love. Just kidding on the last part.
I was 8 episodes in when I finally realized the dude who plays Nic is none other than Latte (real name David Hsu) from the now-discontinued variety show Mo Fan Ban Ban Tang. I kept wracking my brain because I was seriously annoyed that I recognized this guy but couldn't pinpoint from where. And as a self-proclaimed former MFBBT fanatic, I was kicking myself for not noticing earlier. For shame! This is David's first performance and a brave one - it is not easy playing a gay guy realistically without running into the risk of being offensive, but he rises to the challenge. A very good performance - who woulda thunk?
Lin Mei Xiu, in her 1000th role as the well-intentioned, Taiwanese-dialect-spouting nagging mother was reliably funny and heartwarming. Her best scene was when she told You Qing that it is alright if she doesn't marry Li Wei, if what it takes for her happiness is for her and her father to bow to every wedding guest in apology, then that's what she will do. I'm a sucker for all scenes filial piety-related, so I cried. Equally good is Teresa Meng, who is remarkable as Da Ren's rebellious teenage sister.
To Watch or Not To Watch, That is the Question
Not flawless, but pretty damn close. If you can forget about the gorillas and a few cartoonish characters, you're in good shape. Highly recommended.
Bu Bu Jing Xinstarring Cecilia Liu Shi Shi, Kevin Cheng, Nicky Wu, Yuan Hong
The New Adventure Of Chor Lau Heung (DVD, English subs)starring Miu Kiu Wai, Barbara Yung