While the mere thought of remaking a Korean weepie may be enough to be scoffed at in some quarters, Han Yan (Winds of September – The Chinese Mainland Chapter), who’s tasked with adapting 2003’s …ing, has somehow escaped with a logically suspect yet emotionally resonant story of young love and letting go – complete with terminal illness, memory loss and fatal traffic accidents.
The daughter of a wealthy widow (Jiang Shan), 22-year-old Song Shiqiao (Angelababy) has been obsessively talking to a cassette tape recorder since her high-school lover vanished from her life a few years ago. As she’s also suffering from a genetic disorder which may render any physical exertion fatal (as well as impaired memory, a consequence of the medication), the girl’s life has been at a standstill until rock musician Gong Ning (Mark Chao), allegedly the long-lost classmate Song’s pining for, miraculously walks back into her life.
Things aren’t quite what they initially seemed to be, and the film’s ludicrous revelations and contrived plot turns should have put off a few of its more sensible audiences. Instead, First Time is irresistibly carried by the charm of its two leads, as its Chinese writer-director patently manipulates our emotions with extended scenes replayed with different edits. So when the young lovers finally decide to realise Song’s near-suicidal dancing dreams – as if living on isn’t already a triumph in itself – we just wish them good luck. Silly them.
Dir Han Yan, category IIA, 103 mins, opens on June 8