A Love So Beautiful (致我们单纯的小美好) is a drama I watched with high expectations because of high ratings and multiple recommendations from people who compared it to other slice-of-life, school-type dramas I’ve enjoyed like Suddenly This Summer and With You. The literal translation of the title is something like, “To our simple, beautiful moments,” which is, like most literal translations, a more apt description of the show.
This show follows five high school friends, with the focus on Chen Xiao Xi (Shen Yue), a cheerful, plucky girl who loves art and the humanities, but struggles in other aspects of academic life. Xiao Xi isn’t the brightest, but she makes up for it with heart, and has had a longtime crush on her next-door neighbor, Jiang Chen (Hu Yi Tian). Jiang Chen is brilliant, but serious and introverted, and somewhat socially awkward, but all the girls have a crush on him because of his good looks and intelligence. He starts out ignoring Xiao Xi, but eventually finds himself liking her and forced to deal with the arrival of a rival love interest, Wu Bo Song (Gao Zhi Ting). Bo Song is an outgoing and charming boy, a talented competitive swimmer with Olympic hopes, and he immediately takes a liking to Xiao Xi and isn’t afraid of showing it. He quickly establishes an easy, close friendship with Xiao Xi and is always doing whatever it takes to make her happy.
In addition to this love triangle, A Love So Beautiful also features Lu Yang (Sun Ning), one of Xiao Xi’s childhood best friends, and Lin Jing Xiao (Wang Zi Wei), a tomboyish new girl who quickly becomes Xiao Xi’s best friend. Lu Yang has a crush on Jing Xiao, but Jing Xiao has a crush on the school doctor, Li Shu.
A Love So Beautiful follows the journey of these five friends through high school, into college, and beyond. It’s very episodic and slice-of-life, with each episode containing its own vignettes of everyday problems and life. The common thread is the development of friendships and relationships. Most of the show focuses on the three years of high school, and it’s not until the last third of the drama that we move beyond that.
The slice-of-life nature of the episodes made for a lot of cute, heartwarming, and relatable moments, but A Love So Beautiful did not live up to my expectations. I think other shows I’ve watched have simply done the slice-of-life style better. I had a difficult time developing a strong emotional connection to the characters and didn’t really enjoy the show much until we got past high school graduation. On the one hand, I understand that the long focus on high school was necessary to establish a backstory for our characters. On the other, I found most of the episodes to be blandly pleasant, but inconsequential. There was a lot of petty, cliche, and quite frankly childish drama that made it feel like the target audience was an even younger audience.
Part of the problem was my inability to believe in Hu Yi Tian as Jiang Chen. In retrospect, it’s difficult for me to tell whether the issue was Jiang Chen’s character or Hu Yi Tian’s performance. It might be a bit of both. Everything about his character felt flat and encompassed everything that I dislike about this type of cold male love interest archetype. I’ve definitely seen this type of character portrayed in an attractive way, and I get that Jiang Chen’s personality type is introverted and somewhat socially awkward, but that doesn’t mean he needs to seem like a robot. This is my first time seeing Hu Yi Tian and this is his first leading role, so perhaps I just need to see him elsewhere, but I feel like he struggled to hold up some of the more complex, nuanced scenes that required a lot more emotional range.
I would have liked A Love So Beautiful a lot more if the distribution of high school and post-high school life were a little more even. The characters showed a lot more growth and introspection in the last third of the show than the first two thirds, but at that point I had already started to lose a bit of hope in the show. I can only stomach wide, doe-eyed naivete and relationships going in circles (everything about Jiang Chen and Xiao Xi was two steps forward and a little less than two steps back) for so long without something else to keep me interested, and having to sit through seventeen episodes of that was a little too long. I did take a long break after watching episode ten before I picked up episode eleven, and I think that helped.
The way I feel about A Love So Beautiful is pretty similar to the way I feel about Love O2O. They’re both very pleasant and nice, but so bland. It’s fine if there’s no drama, but then I want to develop more of an emotional connection with our characters. I want to get a more in-depth look at their individual stories, like in With You or Suddenly This Summer, or I want there to be more humor, like in Stand By Me. A Love So Beautiful is about beautiful, simple times like the literal title suggests, but perhaps the moments are a little too simple.
Based on this show’s ratings, my opinion is probably an unpopular one. A Love So Beautiful is not my cup of tea, but it may be someone else’s, so don’t let me scare you off too much! It’s easy to find on Netflix or Viki.