Part of the Iqiyi’s Light On Series, Homesick is based on incidents in the 90s with the focus on the disappearance of caretaker Xiao Xiu’s while working for the Li family. The series start off with the arrival of a young girl, Chen You Xi, at industrial Tan Ling town. She is adamant to investigate the disappearance of good friend Xiao Xiu.
Her bumbling amateurish investigation lands her into tricky situations, but ultimately giving her an opportunity to disguise as the Li family’s long lost daughter – Wen Wen. She befriends Cheng Wei, who is an admirer of Xiao Xiu who is also eager to find out the truth behind Xiao Xiu’s disappearance.
Various clues are provided as the series progresses linking various situations together:
- Li Wen Zhuo’s autism which makes him a prime suspect. But his straight forward naivete and kind-heartedness cross him off as a suspect soon enough
- Father Li (Li Cheng Tian)’s gratitude, meek and unassuming personality in embracing Chen You Xi as his lost daughter Wen Wen
- Mother Li (Liao Sui Fang)’s suspicion and aloofness in her relationship with the appearance of Wen Wen
- A luxury watch left by Xiao Xiu to Chen You Xi, leading to the actual owner of the watch – rich businessman Wang Chong Jiang
- Wang Chong Jiang’s previous relationship as Mother Li’s lover in their younger days
As Chen You Xi crosses off each of the suspect, she finds challenges at every corner in the small town. At certain point, she almost gives up upon chancing evidences that Xiao Xiu could have left town to compete in a beauty pageant. But her ultimate perseverance in the investigation finally leads her to the love affairs of Mother Li and Wang Chong Jian, then to the disappearance of Xiao Xiu and even Wen Wen’s case years ago.
The series is very short at 12 episodes, and fast-paced. At each point, you will want to continuously to watch in order to know what will happen next.
Acting-wise, Chen You Xi is portrayed by actress Zhang Zi Feng who looks a little gullible but underneath the naïve youth lies a streak of stubbornness to find the truth. I didn’t really like the character as her personality does not push me to root for her.
Instead, it is Mei Ting who portrays Mother Li who keeps me on the toes with her conflicting cool and warm personality. The character is so colourful – protective of her son Wen Zhuo, indecisiveness but for lustful in the long affairs with Wang Chong Jian, gratitude that ultimately imprison her towards husband Li Cheng Tian, the fear of general talks of town and gossips. I love her depiction of the character and thought she does a great job in this series. Although she is equally a victim and a culprit in the tragedy that befall the family. And the actress also portrays Ya Le in the Rise of the Phoenixes. So totally different!
The ultimate surprise (and totally great acting) is Li Cheng Tian. Veteran actor who really surprises me with the portrayal of a very complex character. At the beginning, the actor actually manages to get my sympathy! Until the last 2 episodes, whereby his layered personality begins to peel and show his real personality as the catalyst of the disappearance of the people. Li Cheng Tian’s personality is really the total opposite against his competitor, Wang Chong Jian, who is the real victim herewith. Hence, never judge a book by its cover.
Cheng Hao Nan portrays Cheng Xu, the police officer involved in the investigation. His relationship with Cheng Wei, his younger rebellious cousin brother and his curiosity leads him to have an open mind to the investigation.
There are some key themes that came to focus.
- Small town gossips & fodder are equally exciting and a nightmare for the local community. They both welcome and fear these gossips, to the extent of leading people to take extreme measures.
- Autism is frequently misunderstood, but family living with autistic member face internal and external pressure.
- Indecision leads to doubt and vice versa, which is especially true in the love affair between Liao Sui Fang and Wang Chong Jian. Her need to protect her son ultimately clouds her judgement, leading to her tragic end. The real innocent victim is really the flashy rich tycoon.
- Li Cheng Tian’s use of psychological warfare and gratitude to keep Liao Sui Fang actually works, but leads to resentment in their relationship. The continuous hidden threats made throughout the years are so subtly implied, that the husband and wife find an equilibrium in their relationship to stay on with each other. A very strange marriage.
- On surface, the meek and unassuming Li Cheng Tian is the mask that covers his real personality. Controlling, the need for social acceptance and “face”, jealousy. At one point, I am actually not sure whether he manages to convince himself that his daughter is only missing (rather than being dead).
Watch it, especially for the veteran’s acting. It is however not for the faint hearted. Dark and often brooding, the series is typical of all Light on Series of iQiyi, examination of the society, multi layered characters and plot twists.
The story brings you round for a nail-biting chase of what will happen next. It helps too the ending is the rainbow at the end of the storm, providing a new fresh start for all the young ones.