Love is True 我是真的爱你 (2021) : C Drama Series Review

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Currently broadcasting in Netflix, the series first caught my attention mainly due to Liu Tao, having been her fan since Nirvana In Fire I days. The series charts the career & personal lives of 3 women with very different personality, going through a journey which test their own principles & beliefs. The series is really feminism-focused, touching on various issues women face at work & in the society – glass ceiling for women at senior management and board level, pregnancy at work, post-partum depression, challenges of working women and stay-at-home mothers. 

The main lead is given the nick-name “The Big Devil” or Da Mo Tou, of which Liu Tao is cast as the capable Xiao Yan. She is an independent & highly opinionated lady, who is highly regarded in her company & the industry. As she takes on the challenges at work, in managing team, difficult colleagues, and demanding board/ management, she sees them in a different light and perspectives.

Xiao Yan’s arch-nemesis is Chen Jiao Rui, who builds up resentment upon being disadvantaged after falling pregnant at the peak of her career. Worse, she experienced post-partum depression subsequently and fight hard to regain her “lost” turf.

The last of the trio is Xiao Yan’s very good friend from childhood – You Ya. She is an optimistic character, but committed towards her role as a stay-at-home mother. Seemingly protected and a little bit more naïve compared with the other 2 women, she is not as fragile and actually epitomise resilience in her own journey.

The Trio of Women – Xiao Yan, Ya Yao, Chen Jiao Rui

Trio’s Interactions with Men in their Lives

The women’s interaction with the men in their lives is curious and fascinating, reflective of the relationships of modern couples. My only grouse is the series may have depicted the men in too much of a “halo lighting”.

Mo Ming, really plays the role of the victimised poor husband very well. I am halfway in love with his empathy, and halfway hating his indecisiveness. It is pleasantly refreshing to see the character grow throughout his own journey, from an almost perfect life to a shattered dream, and then picking up the pieces to move on in life. Throughout it is great to see him questioning his own actions & reflect on the situation. I love that he is the typical “nice” guy, but reflects on his own actions. It took me a while to recognise Mo Ming as Meng Jue from Yunge from the Desert ie Du Chun. Such a different role, and both well-acted.

When his relationship with wife Jiao Rui falls apart, Mo Ming almost had a breakdown, very much affected as he tries to understand what causes the breakup. As an audience, we may be able to pick up the little nuances indicating the cracks in the relationship but as an involved party, Mo Ming may not have been able to see it as clearly. Even to the end, he has a really soft heart and almost always give in to his then ex-wife on her demands. I really hated the way Jiao Rui manipulates him. I think it is really for the best that he does not reconcile with Jiao Rui. Otherwise, he will just be oppressed by the partner, especially if the partner has personality as Jiao Rui’s.  

LOVE – the mr nice guy Mo Ming

His growing friendship with Xiao Yan is also intriguing. There is always a little under-current in their interactions – a little bit of respect, envy, deep care, love perhaps. It is perhaps very telling that Xiao Yan actually turns to him for assistance in her times of need, instead of Qi Bin. The way I interpret it, she is more comfortable to show the softer & weaker side of herself to Mo Ming instead of her partner Qi Bin. It is also funny how Xiao Yan is so decisive in her reactions towards Qi Bin, but often ponders the words from Mo Ming a little more before deciding. Perhaps the “imperfect” character of Mo Ming provides the antidote to the perfectionist Xiao Yan.

I love the way Mo Ming informs Yan Zhi that he is still a little boy, quoting that in life there is more to just romantic relationship between 2 persons of the opposite sex. Yan Zhi’s hypothesis is not that off, as I feel the deep relationship between Mo Ming and Xiao Yan as well. However, Mo Ming cannot even manage a Chen Jia Rui, what more of a Xiao Yan. Their close friendship is the best scenario for them.

Qi Bin, the lawyer who manages to snag Xiao Yan’s fluttering heart. He is almost too perfect to be a true person. Always giving in to Xiao Yan, and always thinking of her comfort. When Hao Da Wei comments that Xiao Yan is the one wearing the pants in the relationship, he is really not far off.

One of Xiao Yan’s character that I do not really fancy is her self-declared feminism and fight for equality. Although women are at a disadvantage especially at work, I also do not see any specific reason for women to turn aggressive and hostile in defence of equality. I would prefer to take the stand to go with the flow, and perhaps taking it in our stride as a life journey. 

An unlikely pair – Xiao Yan and Qi Bin

Because of her characters, she is reluctant to commit towards Qi Bin, not willing to meet his parents, not even willing to own up to their relationship in the open. The reluctance seems more like insecurity to me, rather than a key principle that she is trying to defend. In other word – she is selfish to want the best of both worlds without sacrificing anything.

Cheng Hao Nan is painted as the “zha nan”, loosely translated as male chauvinist pig. He has a happy relationship with his wife Ya Yao, deeply loving her. Having been the sole breadwinner, he feels deeply about protecting his wife and family from his business failure.

I actually really like Ya Yao’s optimism and confidence in herself. In her speech confronting the working women, she is confident of her own choices and have great clarity that she has to bear the consequences. I am convinced with her argument. As a working woman with a family to care, the choice of returning to work should have been a decision made as a family. Many corporates are more understanding and work-friendly for family with young children – be it for mother or father alike. Playing the victim won’t help, and Ya Yao definitely takes it in her stride and uses her optimism to go through life happily. She is not that naïve, just that she takes a simpler approach to life – believing that things will get better and she follows up with actions too.

I am happy for them that Cheng Hao Nan turns around and becomes Ya Yao’s rock when she needs it the most when she loses her unborn child. Although Cheng Hao Nan and Xiao Yan do not get along with one another (with their clashing personality, this is really not out of the ordinary), both loves Ya Yao deeply. Putting aside their differences in personality & stand, they care for Ya Yao in their own way. It is lovely to see them protecting Ya Yao, and lovely for Ya Yao not to lose a good friend due to personality clashes with her husband.

Husband-wife Ya Yao and Cheng Hao Nan

The other 2 male characters – Yan Zhi & Hao Da Wei are quite different. Yan Zhi reflects an innocent & simple guy with view as black or white. Over time, he realises that life throws shades of gray into the black & white spectrum. Bit of a surprise the series does not pair him up with anyone. Hao Da Wei on the other hand is a total spoilt brat, 2nd generation rich kid. Always getting things his way, he is challenged when facing off with Xiao Yan. Well – at least he gets a bit of lessons in life from the encounters he has with the various people in Xiao Yan’s life.

Muses on Feminism

A key topic explored in the series include many feminism-related issues. Both Xiao Yan and Chen Jiao Rui’s characters are very aggressive and fights for their rights at the expense of others. On the opposite of the spectrum, it is Ya Yao’s softer approach and her accountability of her own choices which makes me root for her.

Chen Jiao Rui’s characters puzzle me quite a lot. She is so fixated on pursuing her career, blaming on her pregnancy that resulted in the blockages encountered at work. When she gets into the post-partum depression, her reactions worsen.

Seeing how she manages at work, I really think that her own personality is a selfish person with tendency to manipulate things. She keeps the main diagram to the project and refuses to share the information for fear of others taking credit for her work. She manipulates Xiao Yan and Mo Ming’s kind heart and generosity to win the court case for full custody of her child. She refuses paternity visits to Mo Ming, and I find no valid reason for anyone to do so no matter how angry she is with her ex-husband. She still tries to manipulate Mo Ming by displaying memories of their happy past together, in her attempt to ensure custody for her child is maintained. She even specifically brings the child to the court, knowing Mo Ming will see her interaction with their child – using the emotions to let him give up.

Mo Ming is just a sucker. Jiao Rui admits that her child’s eyes resemble more of Mo Ming, and the way she comments, it sounds to me that she is well aware that she will always have the upper hand in the relationship with Mo Ming. Frankly, after how she treats him, I could not understand how Mo Ming could forgive her so easily.

Xiao Yan and Chen Jiao Rui are really not much different in personality – both ambitious & aggressive. There are only slight differences – which makes Xiao Yan’s character a little more palatable while Chen Jiao Rui’s character comes across as a vile person. Xiao Yan truly cares for those close to her and will help them in her own way. Whether the help is what those close to her needs, that is another story but at least her heart is true to those close to her. She also does not manipulate the situation to suit her.

Perhaps her upbringing in a loving family sets her apart from Chen Jiao Rui’s upbringing by her single mother, who is also a difficult person. Regardless – she does not hurt others in her own pursuit. I think that is very important, in their pursuit of their own ambitions and equality for feminism.

The 2 childhood friends….

Conclusion 7/10

At 40-episode, the storyline is engaging & fast-paced. The series does cover quite a lot of issues in society.

The happiness and conflicts brought in from the new addition of a child to the family – differences in expectations from parents/ parents-in-laws, expectations in managing household and the child, lack of father’s involvement in the upbringing of the child.  The growth in family affecting the commitment at work, and the glass ceiling for women at work. The back-stabbing and culture at work, driven by the leaders. Managing relationship in a society.

The series bring in a lot of shades of gray in life, and I really like that. But the characters – you either like them or you hate them. Personally, I really like Liu Tao as an actress, which is why I give her character a lot more slack. I really may not do so if it is someone else portraying the character. Between this series and The Rational Life – storyline wise I think Love is True has the upper hand, but The Rational Life ends with a sweet taste in your mouth while Love is True leaves things hanging.

Link to The Rational Life is herewith.

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