Silence


Reviewed by: lovekdrama

February 02, 2007

Rating: five

Main Cast

Qi Wei Yi - Vic Chou (Meteor Garden 1 & 2, Mars)
Zhao Shen Shen - Park Eun-hye (Jewel in the Palace)
Zhou Jin - Andy Hui
Shao Kwong - Megan Lai (Mars)

Synopsis

Zhao Shen Shen is of mixed parentage, her late father being Korean and her mother Taiwanese. Shen Shen lives a happy and carefree life under the loving care of her mother and their neighbors, Uncle Zhou and his son, Zhou Jin. However, all that changes, when at 12 years old, persuaded by Zhou Jin to play truant, they both get into an accident, which causes Shen Shen to lose her voice. Shen Shen is frustrated by her inability to speak but soon meets a kindred spirit in 13-year-old Qi Wei Yi, who is at the hospital nursing a broken leg. Wei Yi also has his own frustrations, chief among them, living his life under the dictates of his father who is determined to groom him to be his successor.

When Shen Shen's mother dies in an accident, Wei Yi comforts Shen Shen by telling her the story of "Lucky Star", a place, he says, that loved ones go after they die. He then shows Shen Shen the secret code to communicate with those on "Lucky Star" – the sign of a "star" formed with one's hands. When Wei Yi asks for her name, Shen Shen writes her Korean name. Wei Yi assumes that she doesn't speak because her Mandarin must be poor. He decides that he too will communicate with her by writing. They each write a message for the other to leave in their secret hiding place. They then make a promise to return thirteen years later (Christmas of 2006) to read the messages together. The next day, Wei Yi is unexpectedly transferred to another hospital and only has time to hand Shen Shen a note with his name and phone number.

Shen Shen moves in with the Zhou's. Blaming himself for the loss of Shen Shen's voice, Zhou Jin vows to protect and care for her forever. Although happy with her new family, Shen Shen thinks constantly of Wei Yi. She calls him but is unable to speak a single word. Not hearing from her, Wei Yi concludes that she has forgotten about him. Not long after, Shen Shen misplaces Wei Yi's contact, her last connection with him lost forever.

Thirteen years later, Shen Shen still remembers her promise and looks forward to seeing Wei Yi again that Christmas. With Zhou Jin's help, she now runs a mobile kitchen selling spaghetti. Wei Yi has just returned from England to take over as the Director of his family business. He has become cold and ruthless, and his first order of business is to fire whom he considers redundant and inefficient staff, one of whom is Uncle Zhou. Shen Shen confronts Wei Yi, only to have him throw her out of the building. Neither recognizes the other as the one from their past; Shen Shen knowing the present Wei Yi only as Director and Wei Yi, knowing the Shen Shen of his past by her Korean name.

However, Wei Yi and Shen Shen continue to meet by chance and their initial animosity for each other eventually leads to understanding and friendship. Wei Yi's fiancée, Shao Kwong, feels insecure when she learns of their friendship. However, she continues to trust him and chooses not to go to Qingdoa, China, with him when he is posted there to oversee a project. At the same time, Shen Shen and Zhou Jin have gone to Qingdoa to seek out a doctor, famous for his miracle cures. Zhou Jin saves a mentally disabled girl, Ah Ling, from some thugs and as a result, befriends the girl's younger brother, Ah Han, and their guardians, Uncle Biandou, Yang Ping, Ah Fu and his wife. Shen Shen and Zhou Jin end up living with their new friends.

Wei Yi's project in Qingdoa involves demolishing an old apartment estate to re-develop it into a shopping mall. However, the project is stalled as Uncle Biandou and his neighbors have refused to move out. They were cheated out of their share by their landlord and as such, have no money to move. Uncle Biandou, who is a tailor, receives a huge order for 500 uniforms. With the money he earns, they will be able to move to a big place that can accommodate all of them. Shen Shen asks Wei Yi for another ten days, after which they will move out. He later agrees, to the dismay of his father.

Shen Shen goes to thank Wei Yi but ends up taking him to the hospital when she sees him having terrible gastric pain. There, Wei Yi meets up with his University friend and doctor, Han Shin. Wei Yi is later diagnosed with late stage liver cancer and has but 3 months left. He goes back to Taiwan. He decides the only thing he can do is to keep his promises and face all his responsibilities. A promise he has never kept is to take Shao Kwong for a holiday. While on holiday with her, he breaks off their engagement and tells her about his illness. She is devastated.

Wei Yi then visits the hospital where he had first met Shen Shen. He leaves a note for her in their hiding place, stating that he has bought a one-way ticket to "Lucky Star" and hopes she understands why he won't be able to keep his promise to her. Coincidentally, he finds out that the girl that he has loved for 13 years is actually Shen Shen, the one he has started to develop feelings for. He immediately seeks her out in Qingdoa. However, he does not tell her his identity although he gives her many hints, which unfortunately, goes unnoticed by her. Wei Yi decides to surprise Shen Shen with an early Christmas by dressing up his place with decorations, lights and even snow. In this magical setting, they kiss. Wei Yi asks her to be his girlfriend for 3 months. Insulted, she slaps him. Wei Yi says to himself that 3 months is his whole life. He asks Han Shin if he can be selfish and pursue his own happiness, even if doing so, would hurt Shen Shen in the long run. Han Shin encourages him to love her in the time he has left.

Zhou Jin who has long been jealous of Wei Yi, tricks Shen Shen into going back to Taiwan to keep them apart. He had learned of Wei Yi's identity long ago but had kept it from Shen Shen. However, among Zhou Jin's old books, Shen Shen finds the piece of paper with Wei Yi's name and contact, which she thought she had lost years before. She immediately flies back to Qingdoa and confronts Zhou Jin. Zhou Jin is unrepentant and tells her to forget Wei Yi, whom he is sure has forgotten her. He drinks with Tsui Li (Wei Yi's assistant) to drown his sorrows. Meanwhile, Shen Shen calls Wei Yi's number but it is no longer in use. She thinks over Zhou Jin's words and decides that he is right. She tears up the paper and tells herself that her future is with Zhou Jin. She goes outside to wait for him but catches him kissing Tsui Li whom he had mistaken, in his drunken state, for Shen Shen.

Upset, Shen Shen runs to Wei Yi. At his house, Shen Shen carefully tapes back the piece of paper Wei Yi had given her 13 years ago. Wei Yi is touched upon seeing this and asks about it. She tells him (in writing) about the special friend she had met years before. When Wei Yi asks her why she didn't call earlier, she tells him that she had misplaced the contact, only finding it recently. When he hears this, Wei Yi can barely contain his emotions. We later hear his thoughts (an effective use of voiceovers to convey Wei Yi's innermost feelings and regrets) as he rails against God for being so cruel to him. Just as he has decided to bury his memories of her, he learns that Shen
Shen has never forgotten him.

Shao Kwong visits Wei Yi in Qingdoa. She tells him she will not leave his side. For her and Shen Shen's sake, Wei Yi decides to leave. Before he does, he tells Zhou Jin to take good care of Shen Shen. Wei Yi remembers that Zhou Jin had once told him that, although Wei Yi and Shen Shen had spent a week together in their youth, it had been him (Zhou Jin) who had taken care of and loved Shen Shen for the past 13 years and will continue to do so for the next 13 years. Wei Yi also promises he will not reveal his identity to her nor will he see her again.

Before leaving, Wei Yi gifts a parcel of land to Shen Shen and her friends in Qingdoa. Shen Shen rushes to the airport to see Wei Yi. Shau Kwong too is at the airport and catches sight of them hugging. Upset, she leaves quietly, finding out later from Han Shin about the past that Wei Yi and Shen Shen shares. As Wei Yi heads towards his departure gate, Shen Shen messages him on her phone, telling him that she thinks she has fallen for him. She is disappointed when she thinks he has ignored her message.

Unbeknownst to her, Wei Yi has changed his mind about leaving because of her message. He stays in Qingdoa to undergo an operation. He asks Han Shin to keep the procedure a secret but Han Shin informs Shao Kwong. The operation is unsuccessful, as the cancer has spread to the rest of his body. Han Shin tells Shao Kwong of his decision to look for Shen Shen. He advises her to let Wei Yi go so that Wei Yi can spend his last days without any regrets. Although hurt that Wei Yi had undergone the operation for Shen Shen's sake, Shao Kwong is still determined to hold onto him. Wei Yi disappears from the
hospital, retreating to his cottage in Qingdoa.

Meanwhile, Zhou Jin proposes to Shen Shen. Unable to face him, she leaves for Taiwan. Zhou Jin follows. Undeterred by her refusal, he continues to court her, believing that she will learn to love him. Wei Yi eventually returns to Taiwan. When Shen Shen accidentally learns of Wei Yi's identity from Shao Kwong, she immediately goes to look for him. Knowing that she is now aware of Wei Yi's identity, Zhou Jin tries to stop her. Shen Shen finds Wei Yi but before they can reunite, Zhou Jin purposely gets into an accident in front
of them.

Wei Yi is jealous when he sees Shen Shen's concern for Zhou Jin. Wei Yi confides in Shao Kwong about his feelings for Shen Shen. He says that Shen Shen is the only one who has ever seen the warmth and good in him. He likes himself as seen through her eyes but since he will disappear soon, he sees no reason to reunite with her. However, Wei Yi is unable to keep away from Shen Shen and they do eventually acknowledge each other. In a jealous rage, Zhou Jin chases Shen Shen away and when she disappears, he calls Wei Yi to help find her. Learning that Zhou Jin was willing to die for Shen Shen and given
his own impending death, Wei Yi agrees to give up on Shen Shen. He finds Shen Shen and mocks her for remembering their promise, which he says meant nothing to him. He further hurts her by telling her of his many "girlfriends". He then leaves with one, hired by him to play the part. Shen Shen is understandably hurt but so is Wei Yi. He hopes that she will hate him and forget him.

Wei Yi's father, Qi Chen Yang, learns about Shen Shen. He had noticed a drastic and what he considers disappointing change in Wei Yi, especially in the way Wei Yi has been showing concern for their employees' welfare. He now attributes these changes to her influence. He enlists Zhou Jin's help in inviting Shen Shen to his home for a party, where he announces Wei Yi's wedding to Shau Kwong. He then humiliates Shen Shen by offering her money to stay away from Wei Yi. Angered, Wei Yi leaves with Shen Shen against his father's wishes but with his mother's blessing. It is the first time Wei Yi's mother stood up to his father, having always suffered silently in the
past.

Wei Yi and Shen Shen confess their love for each other. Wei Yi decides that although he is being selfish, he wants to spend his remaining days with Shen Shen. Eventually, they move in together. Wei Yi is obviously happy to be with her, but at the same time, via voiceover, we hear his fears. With Shen Shen now in his life, he wants to live but he knows that death is just around the corner. This is so bittersweet; seeing them so happy but knowing that the happiness can't last.

Qi Chen Yang plots to frame Zhou Jin as a means of forcing Shen Shen to leave Wei Yi. When Zhou Jin learns of Shen Shen's sacrifice, he admonishes Chen Yang for taking away his own son's happiness. Zhou Jin then tells him of Wei Yi's illness. Chen Yang is devastated. He pleads with Shen Shen to find Wei Yi and bring him home. Shen Shen rushes to Qingdoa. For the first time in 13 years, she speaks, telling Wei Yi, "I love you". That night, Han Shin tells Shen Shen of Wei Yi's illness. She is shaken by the news but is determined to treasure every second they have left…

Review

I absolutely loved "Silence". It has an immensely touching story and some of the most meaningful and emotional dialogue ever written. It has impressive performances, especially by Vic Chou and Park Eun-Hye. But above all else, I loved the simple and subtle way the writers/director handled the emotional scenes, relying mainly on the superb writing and understated performances of its actors, to move the audience.

A scene I found particularly emotional and revealing was the one where Shen Shen tells Wei Yi about her friend from her youth and why she lost touch with him. At this point, Shen Shen still doesn't know that her teenaged Wei Yi is actually the Wei Yi who is now sitting across from her. And Wei Yi is determined not to tell her the truth in order to protect her. Wei Yi appears nonchalant during the conversation but as the conversation progresses and Wei Yi learns that Shen Shen has never forgotten him, he slowly becomes overwhelmed with emotion. This scene works so effectively, firstly because of the dialogue, which slowly reveals Shen Shen and Wei Yi's feelings and secondly, because of Vic Chou's performance. His face is passive, giving the appearance of calm but as the scene progress, we see his inner turmoil, by the slightest changes in his expression and in his obvious efforts to remain detached. It is Vic at his best.

Vic Chou has grown so much as an actor, from his rather awkward portrayal of Lei in "Meteor Garden" to his notable turn in "Mars", and now to his near-perfect performance as Qi Wei Yi. There is now, a maturity and subtlety to Vic's acting, which he had lacked previously. Although he occasionally looks like he is trying too hard in his crying scenes, his performance is otherwise flawless. His Qi Wei Yi starts out aloof and ruthless, having long ago buried his emotional and caring side. It is not until he meets Shen Shen again that he starts to feel. And it is not until he knows he is dying that he learns to be human again. Vic Chou portrays Wei Yi's evolution effortlessly, from his arrogant beginning, to his growing love for Shen Shen and his subtle changes as a result, to his regret when he learns of his illness, and finally to his struggle between his wish to be with Shen Shen and his desire to protect her. This is definitely Vic' best performance to date. I had read that in one of the scenes where Wei Yi was overcome by pain, Vic's acting was so convincing that some of the crew members actually believed him to be in pain.

Park Eun-Hye was well-cast as Zhao Shen Shen. Not only does she have that certain innocence about her that befits her role, she and Vic have sizzling onscreen chemistry. I really enjoyed watching them as a couple. And unlike her one-dimensional performance in "Jewel in the Palace", she is outstanding as Shen Shen. Playing a mute, Park Eun-Hye had to rely on her facial expressions and body language, to convey Shen Shen's emotions, sense of humor and inner-strength. She accomplishes this flawlessly with her eyes, a look, a smile, a tilt of her chin, a frown. She even managed a twinkle in her eyes and a gleeful smile when she got up to some mischief in the beginning. A consummate actress, she only studied sign language for a few months but was so self-assured and comfortable in her use of it that I was convinced she has signed for a good part of her life.

Megan Lai could have done more. She was generally competent in her portrayal of Shao Kwong but was rather affected during some of her emotional scenes, especially scenes requiring her to be sympathetic. She just did not have the range to pull it off convincingly, unlike her fellow supporting actors, Andy Hui and Kingon Wang.

Kingon played Yellow, friend to and secret admirer of Shao Kwong. I first saw him as the straight-laced Yuan Yi in "Devil Beside You" but he looks and acts so differently here as Yellow, that it took me a while to recognize him. He accomplished this not by changing his physical appearance but by altering his mannerisms, posture and even the way he speaks, thus convincing me that he is Yellow and not just an actor trying on a different role. His portrayal of Yellow was suitably understated. I hope to see more of him in the future.

Andy Hui's Zhou Jin was really funny in the beginning as he got mixed up in humorous situations because of Shen Shen. For example, his expression while Shen Shen poured spaghetti all over Wei Yi's car was just so hilarious. However, as Zhou Jin began to feel threatened by Wei Yi's presence, I began to detest him. He became extremely selfish, intent on only possessing Shen Shen. I suppose the writers wanted us to hate Zhou Jin during this period because there was nothing remotely sympathetic about him. If Andy had held back a little and not made Zhou Jin so horrible, his Zhou Jin might have been less one-dimensional and more likable. I would have liked to sympathize with Zhou Jin for losing Shen Shen but all I felt was triumph at seeing Zhou Jin hurt. However, it is not Andy's fault for playing Zhou Jin the way the writers and director wanted. Since Andy made me loathe Zhou Jin as intended, he did his job and a job well done indeed.

The soundtrack is wonderful, with contributions by Harlem Yu, Vic Chou and Megan Lai, whose touching ballads struck the right chord. I must also say that Vic has improved as a singer too. I was never too impressed with his vocals in the past, but I am suitably so now.

"Silence" touched me with its simple but poignant story about love, the kind of love that can overcome time and distance, to last a lifetime. And the journey one takes and the sacrifices one makes, in pursuit of love. A story told a countless number of times but few told as beautifully and brilliantly as "Silence".


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