While it seems to be another typical female tale of love and friendship, Chinese film “SoulMate” works thanks to its sincere storytelling and engaging performance. It looks predictable at first, but then it comes to hold our attention as vividly depicting the dynamic development of its two heroines’ relationship, and it certainly earns all the emotions displayed around its finale, which will touch you a lot more than you may expect.
The story begins with Li Ansheng (Zhou Dongyu) being asked about a popular web fiction written by her friend Lin Qiyue (Ma Sichun). That web fiction is based on their adolescent years, but Ansheng is not so willing to talk much about Qiyue for some reason, and she keeps her reticent attitude even when she later comes across Su Jiaming (Toby Lee), a guy who was once close to both of them.
As Qiyue’s web fiction is being read bit by bit, the past between Ansheng and Qiyue is presented to us via a series of flashback scenes. After their accidental encounter during one of their usual school days, Ansheng and Qiyue quickly befriend each other, and Qiyue even takes Ansheng to her home for having a dinner together. Qiyue’s good parents does not mind this at all, and Qiyue and Ansheng are certainly delighted when Qiyue’s parents allow them to spend the night together.
As these two girls grow up more over several years, we observe how different they are from each other – and how their different personalities complement each other. While Ansheng is more spirited and extroverted in comparison, Qiyue is more reserved and introverted in contrast. While Ansheng is eager to see more of the world outside after high school graduation, Qiyue has no problem with following her parents’ wish: going to a college and marrying someone later.
After respectively entering different high schools, Ansheng and Qiyue naturally begin to be separated from each other, but their friendship remains strong as before, and that is exemplified well by when they spend a cozy night together at Ansheng’s small shabby residence. As two very close friends, they can happily and openly talk about anything with each other, and they surely hope that they will remain each other’s best friend forever.
And then there comes a change they never expected. Qiyue has been attracted to a male student in her high school, and he is none other than Jiaming. After Qiyue confides to Ansheng about her interest in Jiaming, Ansheng decides to check out who he is, and that leads to a rather amusing moment between her and Jiaming, who is understandably baffled a bit by her sudden appearance right in front of him.
Not long after this meeting between Ansheng and Jiaming, Jiaming and Qiyue eventually get closer to each other via their accidental encounter at their school library. Yes, this is indeed a cliché, but their tentative approach to each other is depicted with enough amount of sincerity and sensitivity, and you may smile a bit as appreciating that.
Of course, Qiyue subsequently introduces Jiaming to Ansheng, and, alas, Ansheng and Jiaming soon find themselves feeling something between them. After they happen to reveal their mutual attraction to each other, Ansheng decides to do what may be best for all, but that only leads to a bitter moment between her and Qiyue, and they literally become more distant to each other even though they correspond with each other via letters.
As Qiyue and Ansheng constantly push or pull each other over their unresolved matters of heart, the movie generates a number of emotionally tense moments, which surely show us that how friendship can be as intense as romance. While they still care about each other a lot, Qiyue and Ansheng sometimes cannot help but swept by emotions swirling around their increasingly strained relationship, and that only results in more hurts and regrets for both of them.
The movie also pays considerable attention to how they respectively struggle to find each own place in the world, and that adds more emotional resonance to the story. While Ansheng enjoys living as freely as she wanted, she comes to question her life choice, and so does Qiyue, who comes to make a very important decision for her life later in the story. I will not go into details on how they eventually converge to an expected moment of reconciliation, but I can tell you instead that the finale turns out to be quite poignant and I was both surprised and touched by that.
Under director Derek Tsang’s competent direction, Zhou Dongyu and Ma Sichun ably carry the film while effectively complementing each other’s performance, and I think I can expect to see more from these two wonderful actresses. As a guy put between their characters, Toby Lee is less prominent in his rather colorless role, but that is not much of a problem, considering that his character is more or less than a storytelling device to generate the conflict between our two heroines.
Although it may not bring anything new to its subgenre mainly represented by “Beaches” (1988), “SoulMate” is a well-made drama supported by genuine emotions nonetheless, and it deserves to be watched by more audiences out there. This is indeed one of better films I saw during this year, and I guarantee you that you will not be disappointed at all.
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