This is the 4th installment of the “little” series, with focus on family issues relating to the love lives of the Liu and Chen families. Liu Xiao Min and Chen Zhuo, who are both divorcees in their 40s with a son and daughter respectively, are going out with each other. Their lives are turned upside down with many challenges thrown to them:
- Xiao Min’s son coming to Beijing to take his “gao kao” pre-university exam, at the same time escaping his father, who is debt-laden
- Xiao Min’s ex-husband imposing on Xiao Min’s family with debtors chasing after him
- Their children Jia Jun and Jia Jia falling in love with each other
- Chen Zuo’s ex-wife had a miscarriage with his current husband
- Xiao Min’s sister Xiao Jie getting married to Xu Zheng, who is a jealous and control freak
- Chen Zhuo’s striking out as entrepreneur with Xiao Feng, with the assistance of young graduates
- Chen Zuo stricken with cancer
The background of the series is actually ordinary and mundane, reflecting a very practical view of daily life of the upper middle class in Beijing. The themes that the series explore are interesting.
Love life of divorcees – My key take-away is everyone deserves to love, at whatever age. As life gets more complicated in cities with partners going their own separate way, they are bound to find another soul-mate for their remaining life.
Zhou Xun portrays Liu Xiao Min, and I really like her character. Strong-willed, rational with very little to say. Actually she doesn’t need to speak – her eyes and facial expression already gives her away. Her character is a little melancholic and introverted. Her love interest, Chen Zuo (portrayed by Huang Lei) is almost the opposite. Reliable, a little mischievous and optimistic. The characters almost complement each other so well. When they are together, they support each other spiritually & emotionally.
Liu Xiao Jie, Xiao Min’s sister is also an independent lady in her 30s, although quite different from her sister – a lot more uninhibited in her decision-making. Having had a failed marriage once, she once again falls in love with a commercial lawyer younger than her, who persistently chase after her. Xu Zheng already exhibits little clues of his unstable mentality with his over-protectiveness over Xiao Jie. I am a little disappointed that Xiao Jie does not choose Xiao Feng, who has been her pillar of support throughout.
Innocent first love – Jia Jun takes after his mother Xiao Min, speaks little and in the midst of finding himself as he grows to be an adult. He keeps a lot of his own thoughts (and misery) to himself, having no avenue to let go of his stress. In contrast, Jia Jia is clearly an optimist taking after her father. She basks in the love of her parents, growing up healthy emotionally. She is empathetic, knows what she wants, a little playful as she grows into a marvellous young woman. Jia Jun and Jia Jia’s relationship is really reflective of first love – exciting, innocent, sweet, anticipatory. It is also because both are polar opposite that I think they are attracted to each other.
Gritty bounce back – One character who has been a little muted is actually Jia Jia’s mother Li Ping. At first glance, she seems to be uncouth with her over the top behaviour – using wealth to over-compensate Jia Jia, gossipy, flaunting her wealth, using relationship to her benefits. But when she faces difficult times, she takes it in her stride and bounces back. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, the character pulls herself up to face the obstacles and turn around. She never blames anyone when she miscarries. She takes it calmly when her husband is caught for commercial crime. She even helps her husband to bring back his son from overseas and takes care of him. Behind the loud demeanour is one gritty strong woman. Don’t ever judge a book by its cover!
Communal independent living for elder – Xiao Min and Xiao Jie’s mother choosing to stay in a communal elderly place. Her decision is probably not a popular one especially amongst elders, and I am surprised she takes such action. However, the companionship and activities that she gets in the community is something previous to her.
Striking out as entrepreneur – Taking the route to be an entrepreneur in his mid-40s is really a risk, but Chen Zhuo as an optimist does it quite well. His route is challenging, and it is implied the collaboration with the younger generations ensures its success. Statistically, an older person with more financial resources & experience in life can manage changes better with an open mind. And the key is really to take life-long learning to heart and embed in our lives.
Cancer the silent killer – Even with the happy-go-lucky Chen Zhuo, his discovery of cancer opens up a difficult conversation – death. The side effects of chemotherapy and his subsequent surgery – reflective of what cancer patient goes through. What I am a little more curious is the treatment indicates staying in hospital. What we have experienced & observed, chemotherapy is usually a day-treatment without any hospitalisation. As chemotherapy is also heaty, it is normal to take coconut water and “wu hua cha” @ Five Flower Herbal Tea.
Some muses that I find interesting from the series:
- The jam in Beijing is totally crazy! Snail-pace, “tu che”
- Tsing Hua University and Peking University are just located next to each other, and the outer campus is really a nice walk (perhaps not in the summer month) 😀
- Living in the cities is quite restricted via apartment-living. Even then the sky-rocket prices of apartment make it so difficult for ownership of a home
- The series depicts most of the incidents happening pre 2020
The ending scene is actually quite confusing for me – Xiao Min and Chen Zhuo sitting on the bench at the beach in Xiamen, then rushing off with the news that the pandemic is getting serious with potential lock-down.
With 45 episodes, the story is very stable, almost like a journey on the train – slow and steady. There are some climax and dramatic turns, but generally a very realistic portrayal of daily life of the upper middle class living in the capital city of China. Storyline is a little cliché, with focus on optimistic views on the various issues brought up – divorces, seeking love at all ages, exam-focused, changing landscape of elderly living, cancer.
Huang Lei is really very good in portraying the good husband/ good father – having seen him with his real daughter in Dad, Where Are We Going Season 2. The character suits him very well. Zhou Xun is indeed a good actress, but in such ordinary-depicting series, slightly disappoints. I love the pairing of Huang Lei and Zhou Xun, and look forward to them being together.
Otherwise, it is a pretty ordinary series. Watch it if you feel like watching a family-drama with realistic but feel-good vibes.
The other “little” series are: