Chinese Movies, Drama Reviews

Drama Review: My Sunshine (何以笙箫默)

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Tiffany Tang and Wallace Chung

I am pleasantly surprised. My Sunshine, an adaptation of popular Chinese novel Silent Separation, starts off pretty slow with a lot of your usual drama tropes, but ends up being something fresh and happy, much like a ray of sunshine. I like the direction the drama ends up taking, and the fluffy romantic moments, but sloppy storytelling and initially unhealthy relationships detract from the experience.

Zhang Mo Sheng (Tiffany Tang) returns to Shanghai after 7 years abroad in the United States. Having lost contact with all her friends, and having no real family, Mo Sheng begins to start a new life as a fashion photographer at Treasure magazine. But she quickly crosses paths with former best friend Shao Mei, now hotshot model Xiao Xiao, her ex-boyfriend He Yi Chen, who was the reason she left and the reason she came back, and former friend He Yi Mei, Yi Chen’s pseudo-sister who was also part of the reason Mo Sheng left. There is a lot of pain, nostalgia, unanswered questions and unresolved issues between Mo Sheng and Yi Chen, but there is also an undeniable attraction. They are still in love with each other and have been in love with each other for the past seven years, but restarting their relationship is anything but easy. In order to do that, they must first face the many obstacles from outside forces as well as the unresolved past issues that lie between them.

First Impressions

Love the beginning and ending theme songs. It seems mature but extremely pensive, broody, atmospheric. A lot of people staring forlornly at each other. I’m probably in for a lot of tears and heartbreak. But hopefully it won’t have too much melodrama or usual drama tropes. Hopefully. I’m hopeful but not optimistic.

Candid Thoughts

Some reactions as I watch. Might contain spoilers so feel free to skip.

Episode 14: This has to be one of the most unhealthy relationships I have ever seen. He basically demands she marry him in episode 14 in an ultimatum, then promptly flies off to Guangdong for business with so many issues still lying between them. I get that this appears to be his way — put the label on first, then work out the feelings — but it’s so unhealthy. I just want to shake them both and tell them to just talk about their issues and work things out. Stop with all this long moments of staring nonsense!

Episode 20: I appreciate that they love each other, but this relationship is just so unhealthy. I’m sorry, but I don’t find his manhandling her when she clearly does not want it very romantic. Despite all her cheer during her college years, she’s always been such a ragdoll, getting jerked around. Does she even have a spine or skeletal system? Will this drama ever explore these issues? Is this even considered an issue? I mean, at least he said sorry. They both clearly have a lot of issues. But what concerns me is that this clearly has the beginnings of an abusive, manipulative relationship and I’m not sure I’m okay with it, especially if they won’t be addressed.

Episode 21 & 22: Okay, I’ll admit it, the two are cute and supportive when they’re being good together, but I am just still not comfortable with the fact that there’s still so much anger and misunderstanding simmering beneath the surface. The blurb promises that unlike 7 years ago, the two use these new obstacles to their relationship (Yi Mei, Ying Hui) to strengthen and better appreciate their love for each other. We’re starting to see that. I hope it continues, but as with any show, the happiness can never last.

But I’m glad that when Ying Hui springs his “surprise, Mo Sheng and I aren’t divorced” hand, Yi Chen approaches it with cool rationale instead of turning into his former crazy psycho jealous jilted lover mode. Improvement. Slow, but steady. Does not redeem his former manhandling of Mo Sheng though. Also, if he would just listen when she tries to explain, he wouldn’t even have to go through all his guessing and scheming.

Episode 24: Thank you for finally listening and talking to each other. It’s about time. But they’re so happy right now so that definitely means someone will die. In dramaland, happiness never lasts.

Episode 28: No tragedy… yet. I appreciate that, unlike in many dramas, we see the best side of humanity and individual people rather than the worst. These people are all mature adults, and they behave that way. They reflect upon past actions and feel regret, and react rationally rather than with pettiness. The drama is redeeming itself. Slowly.

Final Thoughts

The show is far from perfect. We see a lot of Mo Sheng basically getting assaulted and manhandled and treated like a ragdoll. There is also a lot of her losing her spine and just taking what comes at her. But I guess the drama also shows the growth from that. We see Mo Sheng finally say no and stand her ground. We see Yi Chen finally grow out of his anger and act like a rational person and face his issues instead of refusing to listen whenever Mo Sheng tries to explain her side of things. We see the relationship grow healthy.

It’s this growth and development of characters that also make My Sunshine more watchable. All of our characters eventually act like rational human beings who are capable of thinking of others. They mature and act like adults instead of petty teenagers. Ying Hui and Yi Mei both reflect on themselves and the ways they impacted the people around them and made the right decision.

Yi Chen and Ying Hui are surprisingly similar characters. Their differences lie only in perspective — one of those perspectives being Mo Sheng’s. They are both powerful, manipulative, and obsessive men. They both manhandle Mo Sheng in a way that makes me extremely uncomfortable. Their only difference is that Mo Sheng reciprocates Yi Chen’s feelings, and that seems to make it all okay, whereas she does not feel similarly about Ying Hui.

Unfortunately, we also get some sloppy storytelling. The whole situation with Mo Sheng’s mother, father, and how they’re connected to Yi Chen’s family was sort of explained, but not very clearly and still very vaguely. The last few episodes also clearly seemed to have been filmed just to fill up more time and provide some more fanservice with cutesy scenes and happy endings for everyone. Not that I’m complaining about that.

Apparently there was a lot of negative feedback from Chinese netizens about the appearances of the college versions of Yi Chen and Mo Sheng. The college flashbacks are actually my favorite parts of the show. They’re so bright and happy. I love the college actress for Mo Sheng. She brings so much cheer and charisma and I can see how Yi Chen would fall for her. The two have such great chemistry together.

At first, I was convinced that I would be in for a drama drama, full of tears, and the classic illness, death, birth secrets, etc. The first few episodes were full of so many long, ballad-accompanied stares and brooding and silence. I expected a drama with the classic get together, be happy for a few episodes, then have some outside force or person come in and demolish it, then give us a bittersweet ending.

My Sunshine is not that drama. Instead, it has the shape of a storm that passes and leaves us with sunshine and rainbows at the end. We see the story of a relationship that is the result of work, one that strengthens and in which the two people stand together when faced with adversity, rather than crumble. It’s a nice contrast to their college relationship, which shattered in the face of real conflict. This is the drama’s redeeming point. The fact that it didn’t head in the traditional direction of giving us happiness and then tearing it away. It never really generated any tears — in a good way — and instead just gave a lot of hope and inspiration and happy, fluffy feelings for all the cute romantic moments.

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