Reminiscent of 2010 Thai romance A Little Thing Called Love, You Are the Apple of My Eye (2011) by Taiwanese author-turned-director Giddens Ko brings back memories of falling in love for the first time. It is a story about the glory of high-school days, when everyone struggles to navigate the ship of life through the rocky streams of impending adulthood.
After an unfortunate incident of a back row masturbation contest, Ching-Teng Ko’s (Zhendong Ke) punishment is to sit in front of the beautiful but haughty bookworm Chia-Yi Shen (Michelle Chen), who is the object of romantic interest for all the other class boys. The two opposite characters strike a rather unusual friendship, prompted by Ching-Teng’s self-sacrificial act of slipping an English notebook and accepting punishment in Chia-Yi’s place. From then, the girl becomes determined to change Ching-Teng’s immature and juvenile ways and make him a better person, while the boy’s initial thoughts on how he sees nothing special in the girl everyone else fancies, soon begin to fade away.
From the synchronised male masturbation in class to their desire of the same girl, the group of boys is used as an example of the simplicity of youth, before everything gets complicated – before words begin to have two meanings, before actions begin to hurt, before misunderstandings are borne out of every moment of something unsaid. The film ends with the beautifully sad wedding scene, where the youngsters who grew up together but were later torn apart, gather to witness their beloved Chia-Yi walking down the aisle to become someone else’s wife – in that endless moment, it is all about finding their own happiness. Chia-Yi would always be the apple in Ching-Teng’s eye, but now it’s time he ventured out on a journey of his own life.
You Are the Apple of My Eye is a wonderful proof of the quality of a story, built by a novelist: the writing is more fluid, scenes flow naturally from one to the other, and all the characters are developed fully and uniquely, staying true to their initial characteristics. The fact Giddens built his film on his personal experience, even giving the main protagonist his full real name, makes for an incredibly sincere production. So the audience could care less about the originality of the story – You Are the Apple of My Eye brings back such amount of nostalgia and memories of youth innocence, that the details become irrelevant.
The 14th Udine Far East Festival runs from April 20-28. For more info, visit fareastfilm.com.