You Are The Apple Of My Eye (Na xie nian, wo men yi qi zhui de nu hai)
Taiwan (2011) Dir. Giddens Ko
It’s 1994 and the final year of high school for the class which includes prankster Ko Ching-teng aka Ko-Teng (Ko Chen-tung), who gets himself into trouble once too often. To keep him in line the school principal pairs Ko-Teng with the class’s best student and most desired girl Shen Chia-yi (Michelle Chen) in the hope her studious bent will rub off on Ko-Teng, starting them and their friends off a long and challenging journey through college and into adult life.
This monster box office hit is based on director Giddens Ko’s semi-autobiographical novel and not only broke records in its native Taiwan but also drew well across Asia. Judging by the many reviews of this film it would seem that it has resonated much more strongly with Asians than it does with other across the world, scoring unbridled praise from Asians while reviews from the west are not so enthusiastic.
Don’t be fooled by these negative voices, this film isn’t exclusive towards westerners no more than US high school movies are irrelevant to an Asian (or even British for that mater) audience. It does help if one is already familiar with Asian cinema to certainly not to any real detriment to its enjoyment. Look at it as an opportunity to look into another culture’s teen life.
For the most part this is a good humoured and occasionally by the book rom com of sorts but it has a propensity to be ridiculously crude. Its opening gambit into the realms of gutter humour features an onanism contest during class (you read that right!) Ko-Teng has with his permanently aroused friend Hsu Bo-chun aka Boner (Yen Sheng-yu).
This remains a constant motif throughout the film right though Ko-Teng’s college days, as is Ko-Teng’s frequent nudity, which will either be amusing or irritatingly tiresome as is your wont. Presumably this was one of the less “autobiographical” threads of Gidden’s Ko’s life; if not he’s a brave man to ahem…expose himself in this way, although this was presumably more of a ploy to appeal to the American Pie fans in the audience.
When the film focuses on the inter-relationships of the group of friends – which extends to token fat boy Hsieh Ming-ho aka A-he (Steven Hao), wannabe magician Liao Ying-hung aka Groin (Tsai Chang-hsien), Ko-Teng’s love rival Tsao Kuo-sheng aka Cock Tsao (Owodog) and Shen Chia-Yi’s budding artist friend Hu Chia-wei (Wan Wan) – it is at its strongest although its worth noting that the whole ride is hardly original.
All the boys have a crush on Shen Chia-Yi but none can say or do anything about it except behave like complete arses teenage boys are. She is extremely serious about her studies and looks down on her male classmates as childish idiots but as her tutoring of Ko-Teng starts to yield results the ice maiden begins to thaw, but not for long as college life starts to get in the ways when the group is separated. There is a nice twist for the final act which throws everything off course for a moment but more schmaltz and exuberant silliness is not too far away.
Director Ko had a hard time raising the funds for this film, going so far to re-mortgage his house and even shot the school scenes at the very school he and his real life Shen Chia-Yi attended. He must have done well as the production values are very high with some CGI enhancement for the comedy and some impressive camerawork.
The most important cast members Ko Chen-tung and Michelle Chen thankfully have a believable and natural chemistry together with the latter being able to make her straight laced character quite likeable while the former proves to be a very charismatic lead.
Whether the source material is based upon true life or not You Are the Apple of My Eye is a by-the numbers yarn about adolescent life and teenage crushes which should cost it points, yet it has so much charm and heart that one is compelled to follow the story through to the end and not feel regretful for doing so.