Starring: Vivian Sung, Darren Wang, Dino Lee
Director: Frankie Chen
Running Time: 132 mins
Our Times is a Taiwanese film about a nerdy teenage girl who develops an unlikely bond with the maverick of her school, leading her to come to understand the truths of love in the real world.
This is a really nice film. Despite what may on the face of things seem like a fairly generic and schmaltzy high school romance movie, Our Times in fact proves both emotionally engaging as well as properly funny throughout. With some excellent performances from its leads, a pleasant, light-hearted vibe, and a story that’s simple yet still full of heart, it’s a lovely watch from start to finish.
The story here focuses on the formulaic tale of an ‘unlikely romance’ between complete opposites, in this case the nerdy girl and the outlaw of the school. That’s a story that can go one of two ways, often falling into painfully cheesy and totally unrealistic teen fantasy romance, but Our Times actually manages to make the unlikely romance at the centre of the film both convincing and riveting throughout.
It’s not quite on the level of the likes of 10 Things I Hate About You, however the film impresses throughout because it spends a good amount of time on developing its characters, and as such makes what is normally a formulaic and ridiculous romantic comedy story arc feel all the more believable, simply because there’s more depth to it all.
Now, given that the film runs for 132 minutes, you’d expect there to be a good deal more depth to the story than your average 90 minute Hollywood rom-com, and while it does feel a little on the long side as a whole, I honestly can’t say that I every felt like the story was lagging, as it manages to consistently reinvigorate itself and breathe life and emotion into its characters over the course of its three acts.
So, while it may at first seem like the normal set-up for two hours of teenage girls swooning over boys, the film surprises you with a very tender and enjoyable central romance between the two polar opposites, one which evolves at an engaging pace over the course of the two hour-plus runtime, and proves that movies about teenage romance don’t have to be silly and dumb, but rather can bring some really wonderful emotion to the table as well.
However, don’t think that this is some sort of young adult version of The Notebook, as despite its impressive emotional intrigue and rather long runtime, it’s a very light-hearted, and as such delightful watch from start to finish. In part, that’s down to the cute nature of the teenage girl’s coming-of-age, as the film still manages to feel like an innocent teenage story, and yet gives a heartfelt and very relatable account of growing up from the perspective of both sides, male and female, and that really helps to make the film all the more pleasant to watch too.
And then there’s the comedy. While the film isn’t necessarily laugh-a-minute, there are some cracking gags at points throughout that sparked some hearty laughs from me, but it’s the fact that it manages to consistently blend simple, light-hearted humour with a more dramatic story that makes Our Times work so well.
If this were just a young adult version of The Notebook, it would have felt very tiresome over the course of 132 minutes, but it’s that lighter side to affairs, and the use of good comedy that plays a big part in making the film such an enjoyable watch from start to finish, something that you really don’t see come off too often in the genre, and was a delight to see here.
Finally, the performances. Another area of teenage rom-coms that often fails to prove effective is the acting, as some younger actors fail to naturally blend schmaltzy romance with either comedy of genuine heart. However, that’s not the case at all with Our Times, and the lead performances add even more fun to the film as a whole.
First off, Vivian Sung is a wonderful lead as the teenager lacking in confidence, and with a smiley, energetic performance right from the start, she’s so likable and dynamic on screen. However, she also manages to bring a good sense of dramatic depth to her character’s story, and also thanks to some excellent chemistry with her charismatic co-star Darren Wang, who’s just as surprisingly likable and genuine throughout, watching the central romance unfold is a delight, simply because it’s a real joy to spend two hours or so in the company of the two leads.
Overall, I really enjoyed Our Times. On the surface, it’s a cheesy and generic teenage rom-com, but in truth, it proves far more emotionally riveting and consistently entertaining than the typical genre movie. It’s not quite perfect, but with a well-paced story that, over the course of a fairly long runtime, allows for deep and engaging character development, as well as a lovely sense of heart, fun-loving comedy and some excellent performances, it’s a real pleasure to watch from start to finish, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8.