For the last couple of years, young adult romance films, adapted from online fiction by mainland producers/directors, have become a *synonym for poor quality. Soulmate (《七月与安生》), which hit cinemas on Sept 15, however, is trying to change all this.
Soulmate is based on best-selling coming-of-age story of the same name by novelist Li Jie, who’s better known by her pen name Anni Baobei. It revolves around the relationship between two girls, *rebellious and *erratic Li Ansheng (Zhou Dongyu) and disciplined goody two-shoes Lin Qiyue (Ma Sichun). They have been best friends since they were 13 but their friendship is put to the test when a man bursts into their lives and changes everything.
As of Sept 19, the film has *garnered a very respectable 7.7 points out of 10 at review site Douban.com, which is by far the highest score a domestic film has managed this year.
The *premise of a love triangle sounds like just another tired Chinese youth film. But Soulmate decides to *ditch the done-to-death plotlines, instead of focusing on something that it hopes will offer better resonance with its target audience.
The movie centers around the two girls’ intense friendship with one another. While Li’s works are famous for being filled with *rhetorical flourishes, the film is brimming with small details which help bring the story to life and make it more relatable to a female audience.
Ansheng and Qiyue sleep in the same bed, take a bath in the same tub, they are even familiar with each other’s bra size. They know each other inside out and are willing to do anything for one another. But at the same time they find themselves forced to choose between what matters the most – their long-standing friendship or their newly found romance. The man whom the two girls fall in love with acts more like a *catalyst for the *deterioration and restoration of their friendship.
Producer Peter Chan (陈可辛) calls Derek Tsang (曾国祥) “a director who best understands females,” and whoever has watched the film would agree.
More than simply trying to move the audience with *nuanced *sentiments, Soulmate is also thought provoking. Ansheng and Qiyue live completely *intertwined lives–they are the same person’s left hand and right hand–as one online commenter puts it – but they still yearn for a deeper love outside of their friendship. The original novel which the movie is based upon ends seemingly positively: The “good” girl settles down into a “good” life with her first love. But the film totally twists the pair’s stories. The beautifully composed closing scene of the film shows viewers a more complex side to Ansheng and Qiyue and even provokes viewers to question themselves, asking: Who actually are we and who do we want to be?