You Are the Apple of My Eye (2011)
Director: Giddens Ko
Cast: Ke Zhendong, Michelle Chen
Plot: Ching-Teng has several close friends who have a crush on Chia-Yi. Those friends of Ko's move in unison from junior high school straight into the senior high school division in pursuit of her.
Genre: Comedy / Drama / Romance
Awards: Won 1 Golden Horse Award - Best New Performer. Nom. for 3 Golden Horse Awards - Best Leading Actress, Best New Director, Best Original Song
Rating: NC16 for sexual references.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
One of the most popular of Taiwanese films to hit our shores since Wei Te-Sheng's Cape No. 7 (2008), You Are the Apple of My Eye is a gimmicky film but one with lots of heart to spare. Directed by Giddens Ko, who brings his novel to the big screen and transforms it into a beloved film that speaks to those who were youths once. Well, that's practically everyone above the age of twenty.
But more specifically, Ko's film targets the soft spots of the '90s generation, who grew up in a decade that saw overwhelming technological changes to how people communicated with each other. You Are the Apple of My Eye is fundamentally a film about communication, though it draws upon nostalgia as memory, and hence using the ideal of memory to convey the power of nostalgia.
The film centers on Ching-Teng (Ke Zhendong), who in the opening shot we see dressed smartly in a tuxedo. He’s about to leave to attend a wedding dinner. He bites into an apple, and the film switches into flashback mode. In a freewheeling prologue that candidly introduces the characters, a wave of nostalgia hits us as we receive a flood of imagery that brings us back to the good ol’ days of high school.
You Are the Apple of My Eye is a disguised boy-meets-girl story. It is disguised because underneath its conventional and predictable narrative structure lies something more than just a showcase of the ups and downs of romance – it attempts to capture that fleeting yet all-powerful feeling of awkward excitement that comes from having a crush on someone, or knowing that someone has a crush on you.
All these in a conservative school setting where teenage romance is scorned at. With a screenplay that is both heartfelt and sexually suggestive (what’s with the countless masturbation jokes?), director Ko manages to tap into that spirited yet vulgar youthful voice that most of us vaguely remember.
Michelle Chen plays Chia-Yi, the sweet and smart girl that Ko is chasing after. The chemistry of the two leads is excellent. Their characters’ pubescent innocence is particularly childlike; they poke each other with a pen, or push each other about as they walk. When Chia-Yi cries, Ching-Teng removes his shirt and lets her use it to blow her nose.
You Are the Apple of My Eye may be Ko’s first feature, but it’s surprisingly well-shot. There’s an air of lightness to the film, occasionally cheeky and mischievous when visual effects appear on screen for comic relief.
The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, even though it brings across the message that communication, or the lack of, dictates the direction of one’s future as life is led from one stage to another. The experience of life and communication as people grow up and become mature is a bittersweet one. It becomes memory rooted in nostalgia. Youth may be past, but it is never lost.
You Are the Apple of My Eye is that crowd-pleasing film that chants that mantra. It is also a film that reminds us that once upon a time, we had a crush on a boy or girl that we had longed to date, but never did so. Oh boy, did we regret.
Verdict: A sweet and nostalgic tribute to the generation of youths who freewheeled through love and life in the '90s, creating bittersweet memories of yesteryears.
Click here to go back to Central Station.