[FILM REVIEW] I Belonged To You

NOTE: Spoilers! Lots and lots of spoilers ( . . . and rambling and ranting)! 

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THE BASICS:

  • Director: Zhang Yibai
  • Length: 111 minutes (1 hr 51 min.)
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Genre: Romance, Drama
  • Based on the original series by Zhang Jiajia

THE CAST OF CHARACTERS:

  • Deng Chao as Chen Mo 陈末
  • Du Juan as Xiao Rong 小容
  • Crystal Zhang Tian Ai as Yao Ji 幺鸡
  • Yang Yang as Mao Shiba 茅十八
  • Bai Baihe as Li Zhi 荔枝
  • Yue Yun-peng as Zhu Tou 猪头
  • Liu Yan as Yan Zi 燕子

THE PROMOS:

Watch the English-subbed trailer herethere are tons and tons of promos and teasers if you surf around YouTube.

OSTS: Li Ronghao‘s “Tacit”Faye Wong‘s 《你在终点等我》“You Are Waiting For Me At the Destination”, Yoga Lin‘s 《全世界谁倾听你》 “Who in the Entire World Listens to You”

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THE SYNOPSIS:

Based on the bestselling series of short stories by renowned Chinese writer Zhang Jiajia, I Belonged To You is a touching romantic tale revolving around two radio disc jockeys and the world they inhabit. They find the audience they reach reflects their own love and heartbreak, and forces them to deal with issues larger than just their own lives.


Yeah, okay, the summary up there was basically a copy + paste ordeal. It’s the “official” synopsis. But while my other “plot rundowns” are original, I just couldn’t create a satisfying abstract for this film . . . without ruining it for anticipating audiences.

So, before you read these ramblings that faintly resemble that of a “review”, GO WATCH THE MOVIEDON’T BE SPOILED. IT’S AVAILABLE IN AMC AND CINEMARK THEATRES. 

If you have already seen I Belonged To You, let’s discuss.

Seeing the film branded under the genre of “romantic comedy” nowadays makes me laugh in incredulity, for the film is neither romantic nor a comedy. Is I Belonged To You about love? Romance, so to speak? Yes.

But it’s not romantic.

The film ultimately revolves around three — or four or five — story arcs and perhaps “relationships” that are interwoven together. What those threads of plot weave into, however, is another story. To make sense of all this, let’s break it down by story arc.

Pigs That Chase the Sparrow

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When they were all still in college, Zhu Tou (Yue Yun-peng) — literally “Pighead” — fell in love with the school’s beauty Yan Zi (Liu Yan). Yet she was publicly shamed and nearly faced expulsion when she was accused of scamming for money. Since then, Zhu Tou, believing her innocence, has wholeheartedly supported her.

Their relationship spanned eight years, during which Yan Zi was abroad while Zhu Tou, living it out in a shabby apartment, periodically sent her money. But to Zhu Tou, Yan Zi was his entire world; his main only purpose in life.

Liking a person, aside from her there’s nothing you acknowledge. Even if you’ve been hurt, you are hell-bent on lying to yourself to make it through.

But when Yan Zi returns to China, the moment she stepped into the welcome banquet with tears in her eyes, I just knew what she was to say: “We need to talk.”

And, of course, “Let’s break up”.

The movie doesn’t really give us much information about this Yan Zi — we basically know that she’s physically attractive and that Zhu Tou has developed an . . . infatuation for her. Even the name itself, Yan Zi (Sparrow), is one of those stereotypical female character names that basically amount to nothing.

Whether we’re seething in injustice for Zhu Tou or understanding of Yan Zi’s decision, it’s clear that it was a “boy with a girl completely out of his league” kind of character trope. For eight entire years, she — having no true feelings or love for her “boyfriend” — accepted hard-earned money that he sent all to her. Perhaps it’s guilt, or her not wanting to marry him in the end, that drives her to finally speak up.

But why would she be so cruel and bitchy to say “yes” in the first place? To accept all that money? To use him? For fear of hurting him? Seeing how Zhu Tou reacts, I’m not surprised.

He acts all nonchalant in front of her as if she wasn’t his main purpose in life. But when Chen Mo (Deng Chao) suggests that maybe she did scam the money after all, he goes berserk.

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The thing is, as Xiao Rong points out, just because a dude is willing to do all sorts of crazy things for you does not mean you have to accept his feelings and force yourself to be with him. Seeing actor Yue Yun-peng play the role of Zhu Tou made it easy to understand her, but what if they cast a hot actor? What if he was the protagonist?

Ultimately, the saddest thing of it all is that Zhu Tou probably doesn’t even know all that much about this Yan Zi — but is so infatuated with his idea or imagination of Yan Zi that he completely projected onto her. And why would she be his main motivation in life? He had friends who were there for him and willing to support his decisions, despite their ultimate futility.

Liu Yan was stellar as the “beauty out of his league” — it’s the natural demeanor — but Yue Yun-peng’s portrayal often felt overly exaggerated to the point that we were more baffled than empathetic with his character.

And the segment where he apparently moved to Africa afterward? I almost wish he had just disappeared.

Bittersweet Lychees

The cutest things to ever unfold on screen were undoubtedly Mao Shiba (Yang Yang) and the policewoman Li Zhi (Bai Baihe) — however ridiculous their relationship was, it sowed the seeds of hope — until shit happened.

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Initially, the policewoman Li Zhi goes around chasing Mao Shiba, a mad-scientist-in-the-making whose failed experiments are the source of constant explosions in town. Little screen time was allotted to them, but whatever was presented we treasured — the way she would playfully bicker (ex.: flirt) with him, how he would scramble away in fear of the authorities, and of course when they finally got together.

The movie ultimately never reveals the why or how they got together; when Li Zhi catches up to him one night, she confirms that he never lies. In the next scene, they’re officially living together. But they are literally the cutest things ever, so we all go along with it. ❤

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Also, Yang Yang in a plain white T-shirt. *squealing*

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Mao Shiba does all sorts of crazy, swoon-worthy things for her — he tinkers with all sorts of hardware electronics to create a personalized experience just for Li Zhi. His voiceover on their home’s appliances and their GPS is all sorts of annoying to everyone else but is both sweet and hilarious for the audience.

And of course there was that fairytale wedding proposal that everyone pitched in for — I love how Li Zhi comments about how the “Church” walls were clearly fake and were clearly wobbling, yet still is so touched by it all. In the middle of all the messed up things happening in the movie, that she cried and said yes was so satisfying.

Li Zhi herself is hardcore and awesome — she manages to fend herself from hooligans, giggling up at Mao Shiba as she personally strangles the last. But the happiness is but fleeting.

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The deal is, Mao Shiba is pretty much the epitome of innocence — he straightforwardly says whatever’s on his mind to anyone — anyone — even a cop he’s trying to escape from. He also really doesn’t understand how love works, despite his success with Li Zhi; he sides with Zhu Tou, thinking that if you’ve tried, you should be rewarded with success. In other words, he really could’ve ended up like Zhu Tou.

So apparently this world can’t take this sort of angel.

While Li Zhi is a hardcore fighter, even she can’t take on eight armed hooligans all at once. When Mao Shiba runs over to save her, he takes a stab for her — just as the police finally arrive and the hooligans make a run for it.

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And in that moment, when he was all bloody and shed tears . . . he changed, gave Li Zhi a final hug, and, well . . .

The whole time I was screaming (in my head), “CALL AN AMBULANCE!!!”

A year later, when his voice is heard throughout town for their anniversary, Li Zhi bittersweetly smiles to herself. All innocence in the film has but died. And ultimately, I feel as if Li Zhi and Mao Shiba would have still broken up, because, life.

Passing Through Your Entire World

Ultimately, the entire overarching plot of I Belonged To You revolves around the ruined man that is Chen Mo (Deng Chao), who lived with his bros Zhu Tou and Mao Shiba before, well . . .

Chen Mo is a DJ who hosts the show Passing Through Your Entire World, or 从你的全世界路过, the title of the film itself. Once able to bring warmth and happiness to listeners throughout the country, he has since then succumbed to snarky sarcasm as he basically wastes himself away.

The movie begins four years ago when his then-girlfriend Xiao Rong (Du Juan) announced that she wanted to break up with him for everyone to hear on the air. They argue, but while Xiao Rong is promoted to the position of manager, Chen Mo still insists on staying despite his show’s low ratings.

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Meanwhile, Yao Ji (Zhang Tian Ai), one of Chen Mo’s biggest fans, joins his show as an intern. Initially, she perhaps has feelings for him, but it’s evident that Chen Mo still silently loves his ex.

Yao Ji — the meek and unassuming girl — likes Chen Mo and snaps when haters taunt him for wasting himself. She clearly has feelings for him, too, but ultimately decides to put his feelings before hers.

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With the help of Mao Shiba, she gets the ex-lovers to meet up on the rooftop that night. They do, but Xiao Rong doesn’t want Chen Mo.

While they both deeply love each other — they may seem to hate each other on the outside, snidely treating each other with derision — Xiao Rong is ambitious. She wants to climb up the corporate ladder and earn tons of money, while Chen Mo, well, ever since his break-up, he’s been living it out in a shabby apartment with two other dudes.

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I wonder if the entire flashback regarding Yao Ji’s backstory as a lowly store clerk was really necessary — there were enough hints dropped throughout the bits of dialogue and Crystal Zhang is a good enough actress to make Yao Ji’s intentions and motivations, well, crystal clear. Though it’s definitely nice to see all the details filled in and specifically how and why Yao Ji basically blames herself as the catalyst of Chen Mo’s descent, there was again enough information to be gauged in the previous dialogue and the capable actors (put faith in the audience!). But the rain scene and the wall were simply gorgeous in its quaint symbolism, so there’s that.

I feel like Chen Mo’s failure somewhat disillusions the admiring fangirl that is Yao Ji, as she leaves the city that same night. And he, too, moves to Daocheng with only his mother left.

Every day I face the microphone and ramble to nowhere, helping others fix their life’s problems, when it’s actually my life that’s been shit.

Even his mother has to have Alzheimer’s — every day she tells him that she’s waiting for her son to come home, and he can only quietly bicker with her until then.

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Then, one day, she claims she has three sons — Chen Mo, Zhu Tou, and Mao Shiba.

At the end of the movie, one year after the fateful night that Xiao Rong, Yao Ji, and Mao Shiba all left, Chen Mo stands in the grass fields of Dao Cheng. He’s managed to eek out an existence, even if it means ignoring the injustice around him.

Behind him stands Yao Ji.

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And . . . cut. Roll credits.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

Why did I go and watch the melodrama that was I Belonged To You? Because I didn’t know it was supposed to be one.

The cinematography of the film included a very vibrant yet soft filter, creating a mirage of sorts. Like the characters, we all viewed the beginning of the film — even when Chen Mo broke up with his girlfriend — with rose-tinted glasses.

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And slowly, gradually, as the once wonderful humor and romantic love turned out to be false and impossible, it was unknowingly taken away. It was actually a very natural and gradual progression and transition that no one was really noticing the difference until it actually started happening.

Like the characters, we all had a very positive view of love — that love is enough to be happy in this harsh reality. At least, it would be the case in this universe, because the trailers made us think that this was going to be a touching rom-com of sorts.

I’m perhaps slightly mad at how they tricked us all because I sort of watched this because I kind of needed emotional consolation before continuing Scarlet Heart: Ryeo

Don’t get me wrong — there was still a flicker of hope at the very end of the film, but did Chen Mo have to silently lose everything?

That being said, I adapted quickly when even the hilarious puns became lines that characters sobbed at. But maybe I’m heartless because I didn’t cry. I definitely felt like crying at so many points, but for some reason it felt as if my eyes were extra dry that day or something.

Or maybe just when one felt like crying, an ironically comedic moment would just pop out of the blue.

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In terms of acting, most of the characters did alright — Deng Chao’s character for some reason felt like Deng Chao himself, Du Juan was beyond amazing, and they all fulfilled their roles quite nicely. But I feel as if, despite my earlier writings, the emotional impact actually wasn’t enough.

While more than enough shit was happening in the plot, the emotions played onscreen weren’t enough for me; the emotional impact wasn’t enough for me to join in the crying; they really could’ve further honed in the consequences. But it definitely left me, an adolescent who doesn’t know anything about romantic love, quite a lot to mull over.

Though two people may love each other, it’s often not enough for two to stay together. Though two people may not wholeheartedly love each other, they may be a good enough fit to be together.

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More heightened emotions could have increased the impact of the film. Instead, what we’re left with is a bittersweet story with pretty cinematography and A-list Chinese actors.

So, recommended? Maybe. Don’t expect any consolation.

OVERALL RATING: 7.2/10

— moon148

P.S. Actually, at the very end of the credits, Zhu Tou says over the phone that Chen Mo’s getting married. “I know,” Mao Shiba’s voice comes on. “I’ll definitely be there.”

UPDATE: All those deleted scenes, though . . . 😥

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Miss Attache says:

    Thank you for this. I’ve been planning to see the movie online (since it’s not screened in my country) and wanted to check the reviews (there’s almost none in English, unfortunately).

    Like

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