Brilliant, stunning, and a genuine love story. This is yet another fantastic Vietnamese BL series that more than outshines BL dramas from other countries, even those with legions of fans.
Honestly, there is no comparison between these Vietnamese series and others. This story is not so much told but felt. The acting is praiseworthy. The story is superb. And the cinematography is first-rate. There are just not enough accolades for this series. A home run, as the expression goes! Its Vietnamese title is “Uoc Hew Lang Chai”.
It is a simple, basic story of never expecting love but finding it anyway. Tien, played by Duoc Si Tien, (Pharmacist) visits the seaside village of Cua Can to photograph the local scenery and life. He stays with an acquaintance of his family named Aunt Lan, played outstandingly by Ngan Quynh. She has a daughter named Hue, portrayed by Le Loc. Hue has a significant stuttering condition and normally I would detest these parts, as they tend to be a source of comedy, or an object of ridicule. However, this was not the case, and it was presented with great care. So it wasn’t a mere caricature, but a real person with a stuttering problem. The stuttering did not affect her ability to move through the society and she did not play her part with comic relief as most of these disadvantaged roles tend to do. I was deeply appreciative of the fact that she never tried to hide her stuttering and she never let it affect her negatively. Kudos for playing this part with such great care and understanding of persons with a stuttering condition. She was elevated to playing a role that had a significant impact on the story. Le Loc as Hue made this role hers and she brought dignity and respect to an individual with a speech impediment. (My professional background has been working with people with disabilities and I have a passion for seeing that these roles are portrayed with sensitivity).
Aunt Lem was a character with great serenity, but full of angst. She has an adopted son Tai, played by Huu Tui. Adding to her beauty was the fact that she did not discriminate between her real daughter and her adopted son. She loves them both equally. They were her children, plain and simple. She took him on when he was very young and also paid the financial debt of his real mother; thus saddling her with an insurmountable obligation to the local loan shark Ms. Second (Trang Tran) and her thug sons. Tien stays with them and solicits the help of Tai to take him around, so he can photograph all the local spots. At first, Tai is reluctant to do so, as he does not like/trust people from the ‘city’. But eventually, he warms up to Tien and in more than one circumstance, Tien helps him thwart off the thugs from Ms. Second who are harassing them. He also saves Tai’s life when they get stuck on Fairy Island. What starts out as perhaps a bromance, turns into something more intense. Slowly, almost imperceptibly but it blossoms. While there is a lot of bantering throughout, you can sense that both are attracted to each other not just physically, but emotionally as well. They soon become inseparable.
But Tien has a girlfriend, and she is concerned that he has depleted his savings to help pay off the loan of the family he is staying with. So, Tuyet (Karen) comes to see for herself what is going on. She quickly learns that Tai has captured the heart of Tien and she exacts revenge on him by creating scenarios where she appears to be a victim of Tai’s jealousy. Of course, she is not and has planned and executed all those deeds herself. Reluctantly, Tien heads back to Saigon with Tuyet but while he is physically with her, his emotional being is with Tai. With a little investigative work, he discovers that she manipulated the situation into her favor. Rather than getting angry, he tells her with such intense sadness and contempt, “because of your selfishness and jealously, you dare to do anything. Selfish people like you will never be happy.” He begs her to not go on like this, as he does not want to call her ‘disgusting’. This breakup scene was done with such intensity and passion, and you could sense the resolution in him that she would never be a part of his life again. While Tuyet begged and pleaded and was hysterical wanting him to stay, Tien was now fully committed to try and right the wrongs that was done. He had such profound regret for not believing in Tai in the first place.
What is so intense and, in a sense, so magical about this was that Tien realized that he and Tait are soulmates. Why did they meet in the first place? Was it just happenstance or something more? They exchanged connections made them both realize that they needed to be together and belonged with each other. And when that would happen, it would be a joining of them not merely as lovers, but as soulmates. This series was not afraid to go there and show a deep passion for each other. There are no shooting stars here – just a slow steady journey of discovering that there is more to life than where one lives, or how much money is owed, or what your status in life is. “Nothing in their world is as important as the smile of a soulmate.” As their relationship blossomed, they realized that to lose each other would be unthinkable and nothing would make that happen. It was almost as if they were destined to be with each other. In this case, it is the journey of life that takes them there.
The other support roles in this gem are all so good and believable. Please understand that these series might NOT be meant for audiences (necessarily) outside of Vietnam; so their way or portraying characters isn’t like other countries and you must look at them from this perspective. Some of them were meant for comic relief, but still add to the story and its flow. They are all relatable to us though.
The two main actors (Pharmacist) Duoc Si Tien as Tien and Huu Tui as Tai brought an insurmountable amount of warmth to their roles. You could see them grow into a relationship not through intense actions, but through a slow drive of human encounters that literally made them see each other in different perspectives and unknowingly risk their lives for their partners. They brought a certain innocence to their character and at the end were not ashamed or afraid to say that they loved each other. That is a lot to process in a short period of time and they did it without looking forced and making it appear like a natural outcome. Neither tried to be something they were not and as they developed their relationship you could see how that intensified their relationship. It was for me remarkable acting and I believed their characters as well as their relationship without question.
This series was beautifully filmed in what appears to be a small town with all its charm and grittiness. It looked real. Some of the natural scenes were quite beautiful and one could understand the lure of wanting to photograph this area. Normally I do not even hear the music in the show (I usually tuned it out) but in this case, the musical score enhanced the emotions and made the whole series more reflective. I did not want this series to end as I found these characters, especially the main ones so charming, personable, and genuine. Both are incredibly handsome, and I must admit admiring Duoc Si Tien’s sculpted body. This is again another winner from Vietnam, and I am pleased there will be a Season Two of this series.
Rating- 5 out of 5