A romance that leaves one with regrets, a love that is able to overcome time, a non-functional group of classmates and the reality of money and jealously intertwines in the Chinese drama Precious Youth. The heart-warming story of a group of friends whose friendship and romance is reconstructed as they transition into adulthood, were my shattered expectations for the drama.
Chinese Title: 那年青春我们正好
Genre: Metropolitan, Romance, Youth
Channel: Dragon TV and Zhejiang TV
Number of Episodes: 39
Episode Duration: 40 minutes
Recommended for: Fans of Liu Shi Shi and Zheng Kai. Or people who like romances weaved in webs of deception, abuse and dysfunctional behaviour.
Not Recommended for: People who were expecting a beautiful romance with logical, strong characters.
Starring: Zheng Kai as Xiao Xiao Jun, Liu Shi Shi as Liu Ting, Li Hao Xuan as Guo Hai Bing and Zhong Dan Ni as Han Lu
Plot Outline: As young teens in 1997, falling in love for the first time, two sets of best friends run into problems as they fall for the same people. Friendships aside different personalities, dreams and ideals, become a problem for the academically motivated student Liu Ting and the troublemaker Xiao Xiao Jun. When parents and backgrounds come in the way, they fail to keep the relationship alive and choose to part ways. As they transition from their teenage years to adulthood these four students’ problems seem to slowly start to change and some seem to fade. Their emotions, although still evident for one another, has already become a thing of the past. Will they ever get a second chance at making their first love work?
With a production budget three times larger than most Chinese modern day series and the producer and cameraman of the popular Korean series, You Who Came from the Stars, I had high expectations for this drama. Having followed Liu Shi Shi, from her The Young Warrior days, the minute they announced her casting, I knew I was on board. Although trained in ballet, throughout her career, there has not been many chances for fans to see her dance, so when the production released its first poster of a delicate ballerina feet besides the contrasting male dress shoes and pants, I just simply couldn’t wait. However, I soon realised that this was simply a play on Shi Shi’s background, as Liu Ting is not a dancer and nor are any of other the characters.
I generally enjoy shows that go from the 90s to current times, as I feel there’s a nice soothing sense of nostalgia seeing elements of my childhood again. However, this was not the show that will explore these elements. This probably lies within my fault as I had expectations it was similar to the Taiwanese In Time With You and Reply 1997, both dramas that I loved. It’s not to say that these two television shows don’t have their dramatic elements, but Precious Youth plays much more on these elements, to the extent, it becomes hard to relate to. I should have expected this when I saw the first trailer, but when I was watching it I was more focused on how beautiful Liu Shi Shi was and how soothing Zheng Kai’s narration was.
The flaw in this drama highly falls on the writer’s inability to make the characters understandable, easy to relate to and logical. It is crucial for a drama to have a likeable, strong dependent female lead, but this was not Liu Ting. You do see her decisiveness in some elements, however this quickly gets washed away as the drama progresses. Guo Hai Bing’s jealously and aggressiveness should have been evident to Liu Ting with how he acted before they were together, but the drama plays on these as mere symbolisms of his devotion to her. His jealously when they’re dating is over the top, which the writer uses as the downfall to their relationship. This is not too much of a problem if it’s only one character. However, the writer uses jealously as a plot device too often- she makes it seem as though trust is impossible even for characters who have been in long committed relationships.
Xiao Xiao Jun may be the polar opposite of Guo Hai Bing, however, his push and pull game with Han Lu makes his character just as flawed. Han Lu obviously isn’t a perfect character herself with her trust for Xiao Xiao Jun being more like delusion. Acting wise, Zheng Kai, Zhong Dan Ni and Li Hao Xuan presented their characters well. This is also one of the rare dramas where the actors and actresses use their own voices, well at least I know Liu Shi Shi and Zheng Kai did, as I’m not too familiar with the other actors and actresses. Liu Shi Shi’s improvements are shown when she uses her own voice as it meshes better with her character then her previous works. However, she is still a little stiff in some areas, but not too stiff where it’s becomes a distraction.
This drama also falls in the awkward time range where the actors and actresses playing high school students is a bit strange, but there would be criticism if they used child actors and actresses as there’s not large enough time skips where it would be okay for the transition to occur. So you will need to accept them playing characters 10 or more years younger for some parts of the story.
Zheng Kai’s narration and Liu Shi Shi’s beauty is definitely the reasons I finished the series. The stylist did very well in displaying Liu Shi Shi’s refined elegance, which makes me understand why her styling became a topic of discussion. However, I understand why it failed to live up to hype and expectations, with an extremely messy plot and characters. The drama certainly plays too much on first loves, which in my opinion is too over used in dramas. It’s not a drama I would watch again, and nor is it a drama I would recommend to others. So unless you love the actors, I would say you should definitely pass on this production.