When spinach meets water spinach…
- Hans Zhang as Wang Jing Hui
- Joe Chen as Zhou Hui
- Wang Xiao Kun as Feng Song
- Shi Yan Fei as Zhu Ting
- Mainland China
- Director: Tian Meng
- Running time: 92 minutes
- Release date: October 23, 2015
At the start their freshmen year each member of the boys’ dorm writes down a girl they are interested in, and makes a promise not to pursue someone else’s girl. Despite having a highschool sweetheart, Wang Jing Hui puts down Zhou Hui’s name much to the surprise of his peers. To everyone else, Zhou Hui is nothing but a nerdy girl with glasses, but she has a secret only Wang Jing Hui knows.
Youth Never Returns is based on a novel called (roughly) When Spinach Meets Water Spinach. Ok, I know the English names of these vegetables are super bland, and sound completely ridiculous together, but believe me when I say it makes sense in Chinese.
Spinach in Chinese is called “bo cai” and water spinach is “kong xin cai.” In the movie, “bo cai” is a reference to Joe Chen’s character, Zhou Hui. Why? Because she’s got big boobs. Yep, you read that correctly. In Chinese slang, when a girl is well endowed she has a lot of “bo.”
If you haven’t guessed it already, “kong xin can” is a reference to Hans Zhang’s character, Wang Jing Hui, who is all looks no substance. If you have ever seen water spinach you would know that it is hollow on the inside, and “kong xin” literally means empty heart. If you are still wondering about “cai,” well, it means vegetable.
Now that we are all clear on the title and the basic set up for the characters let’s launch into the real meat of this review – how is this movie anyway? Let it be no secret to you, this movie sucked big time. I can only hope the book is much superior because I can’t fathom basing an entire story line around something so vulgar and distasteful. Even if this movie is meant to be a tribute to those reckless and hormonal college years a bit of class wouldn’t hurt. Do they need to include a song about her “bo”? Probably not.
Throughout much of the movie I have no idea why Wang Jing Hui chooses to pursue Zhou Hui other than the fact that she has a lot of “bo.” Is he that obsessed that it wills him to paint a whole tree pink to curry favor with her? It is no wonder Zhou Hui does not accept him despite also being in love with him. And precisely because he can’t muster another reason for why he is remotely interested in her, I continued to be baffled when he turns up years later, still just as enamored with her. WHAT is possessing this man to behave the way he does? Can someone explain it to me?
It is comforting, however, to see Wang Jing Hui grow out of his lust at the end of the movie. He decides to take care of Zhou Hui and promises to love her even though she is getting a mastectomy. Good for you, Wang Jing Hui! But without a confession of sorts it feels a bit anticlimactic especially when Zhou Hui is still pulling our attention to her “bo” every two seconds with her self-loathing. This is clearly a traumatic situation for her and it is natural for her to want to discuss her future, but with the rest of the movie already so zeroed in on her “bo” I just want to get away from it.
Youth Never Returns is not without its merits though. I did enjoy the tribute to Leslie Cheung and the second romance with Feng Song and Zhu Ting. There are definitely shining moments of humor, but unfortunately none of it can save this movie from its disastrous overtone.
This & That:
- Hans Zhang was in Boss & Me and The Four. He was most recently in The Classic of Mountains and Seas opposite his girlfriend Gulnazar. Rumor has it that these two met and fell in love while working on this drama (in 2014); he was dating Zheng Shuang at the time and they ended their five year romance shortly after.
- Joe Chen starred in a bunch of Taiwanese drama in the 2000s, such as Fated to Love You and The Prince Who Turns into a Frog. By late 2000s she began to act in more mainland produced dramas, starting with The Girl in Blue. She has since been in multiple popular series such as The Queen of SOP, Destined to Love You, Cruel Romance and most recently, Stay with Me. She was also in Return of the Cuckoo and Our Times. Her next drama will be opposite Tong Da Wei in Love Actually.