The 11-episode series, originated and produced in Taiwan, is at first a surprisingly light-hearted comedy, but with significant depth in exploring the multi-layered emotions in family ties, love, death, betrayal, courage, friendship and communication.
The series pivots its focus on Wang Mei Mei, a widow who lost her almost perfect, loving & patient husband ~ 5 years ago. She lives with her two single daughters – eldest Ruo-rong a high-school teacher who is also an author of romantic books while youngest Ruo-min an employee of a food chain. Ruo-rong the eldest is reliable and independent, but lacks the courage to try something new and out of her comfort zone. Although relatively successful with many of her romance books printed, she is hurt from her first break-up and never really rebounded to try out others. Ruo-min the youngest is portrayed to be a little more naïve, constantly seeking love (and forgiving) from a cheating scum and an alcoholic. She has been together with Xiao Cha, who is a cheating scum who is also living off her.
Mother Mei Mei is also a strong character. Having been protected most of her married life by husband Chen Guang-Hui, she is still struggling to come to terms with the loneliness in her life post her husband’s sudden death. Outwardly optimistic, she is keen to explore new things to fill the void in her life. At first exploring by dating local men around her neighbourhood, she stumbles into various challenges in the form of being the 3rd party ie mistress in relationship(!), objections from children who are suspicious of her eyeing riches of her partner, persistent pursuers who are a little too aggressive.
Still not able to fill the void in her heart, she goes international by joining an international dating website for elders, almost getting scammed by a dodgy English gentleman who asks for transfer of money to extricate himself from being “illegally detained”. It does not daunt her excitement and continuous pursuit of the elusive love. In her despondent days upon realising the scam, Robert from Australia stuck through her ups and downs and both form a fast relationship. She flies over to the outback to visit Robert in the hope of getting married. At first, it was hilarious to see both struggling to communicate and facing a difficult step-daughter and a shameless tenant taking advantage of Robert by not paying rental and refusing to move.
When Robert and Mei Mei announced their impending marriage, daughters Ruo-Rong and Ruo-Min are indignant and tries to persuade their mother against the marriage. Both relents upon realising how similar Robert is to their deceased father – patient, giving in to their mother and even making her happy.
Perspectives & Little Things Count
The series portrays the home of the family in the form of a glue in husband Chen Guang-hui, who is loving and patient towards all the 3 women in his life. When he passes on, all the 3 women deal with the death differently based on their personality. The common ground is still their obvious longing and missing of husband/ father.
I like the series’ choice of story-telling at the beginning whereby the women will “meet” the deceased husband/ father separately to complain about their grouses of their lives and family members. It is almost like their one-on-one session with a mediator. When alive, Chen Guang-hui is the arbitrator amongst the women. With his passing, it is as if the women are unable to communicate without going into an argument.
Widow Mei Mei is not the perfect wife nor mother, but has the courage to seek love and new path even at an advanced age. Seeing how even their mother gets out of her own comfort zone to try new things – Ruo-Min takes the difficult path to stop drinking and stays out of her toxic relationship with Xiao Cha. Ruo-Rong’s path is a little more predictable as she continues in her own zone through her writing.
Titbits #1 – Xiao Cha is portrayed by Austin Lin Bo Hong, whom I last watched in I Will Never Let You Go (starring Ariel Lin and Vin Zhang) as Dong Fang Shi. He has lost so much weight here and aged a lot too, although the series takes all the liberty to showcase the men’s torso.
The younger man-older woman relationship is also explored with Aunt Jin (Mei Mei’s best friend) and Lu Yi an aspiring actor 15-years her junior. Mei Mei has always voiced her disagreement with Xiao Jin’s relationship with Lu Yi especially when she spends money on the unemployed Lu Yi. However, it is Xiao Jin’s prerogative on how she wants to spend her money & life. Lu Yi’s presence in her life enriches Xiao Jin’s – being her companion, gave her a listening ear, being her driver and all.
It was a little heart-breaking in Xiao Jin’s story arc, but I simply love her chosen portrait and arrangement for her own funeral! What a wonderful and memorable happy way to leave for your family and friends. I love the optimism in Xiao Jin’s character – rising from an abusive relationship and keeping her love of life through it all. Best quote from Xiao Jin – I never have a destination or target as every day is a surprise for me to look forward to.
Titbits #2 – Personally I respect the sombre mood for funeral, but I also believe as death is something everyone will face, it would be better to leave great memories for everyone to celebrate the life that one has lived.
Chen Guang-hui and daughter Ruo-Rong have a habit of keeping journals of their thoughts. This is almost a dying art as most people document their life in the form of pictures and videos, especially in the new age of social media. But the penned-down journal of Chen Guang-hui is quite very meaningful, and I believe gives a closure to his family members.
I also love the fact that Chen Guang-Hui instills great reading habits in both Ruo-Rong and Ruo-Min. Their love of Jin Yong’s works binds them together, often providing life-long understanding of situations. As Chen Guang-Hui explains, the beauty of Jin Yong’s novels are readers of different age group interprets the stories and situations differently. Totally spot-on, as I have felt different feelings, emotions & interpretations re-reading many of the favourite books from the past. The thoughts & emotions when reading as a naïve young teen, an aspiring youth going into the workforce, a more matured person with a few dents from life knocks, and a senior hopefully with the wisdom gathered over the years.
Titbits #3 – Ruo-Rong’s name comes from Huang Rong of Legend of Condor Heroes while Ruo-Min’s name originates from Zhao Min of Heaven Sword & Dragon Sabre – being favourite characters of Chen Guang-Hui. Growing up with these classics, there are indeed many thought-provoking lessons for us to conclude in the stories.
The series is hilarious, making me laugh in the middle of the night. Simply because of its absurd comedic reaction of the actors and actresses. It is quite a refreshing series from the normal series I watch.
The series covers quite a lot of different topics – coping with death of loved ones, abusive relationship in the family, abandonment by parents and/ or lover, unconventional relationship (cross-country love relationship, Dec-May relationship). My main take-away from the series – chase your own dream with courage. One needs to let go to move forward.
Although there are some small flaws, generally the series is a feel-good series. Watch it for the fun of it. The series is quite unconventional and very open-minded in a number of things – sex scenes blotted out, gay relationship, website dating, and so on. Actors and actresses are very good and believable, and does make you empathise with their characters.
The endings are a little open ended for many of the younger characters especially for the two daughters. And I quite like the ending in such a way as the audience can then decide which path would they like their characters to go on.
Personally – I would really like Ruo-Rong to have the courage to befriend the 7-E cashier and even go on a road-trip with him while writing her own books. Both obviously have some attractions towards each other, and the courage to explore is all it takes. Although I hated Xiao Cha’s cheating ways, the ending paints him as an almost “reformed” character with even explanations on his own emotional baggage arising from his birth mother’s abandonment. I am mixed on whether to support Ruo-Min to give Xiao Cha another chance. The rational and practicality in me has the nagging feeling that a leopard will never change its spot. The naivete and romantic in me feels that Xiao Cha deserves another chance.