Honestly, it is hard for me to be objective about Vietnamese BL’s. There is something so organic and raw about them that they have become incredibly endearing to me. And these two short series live up to that standard as well. It is simply a joy to watch and experience. It is obviously a low-budget production with some sound and technical issues; but what it lacks in quality, it makes up for it with intense efforts on the part of the actors and actresses. It is truly and honestly a labor of love. You can see their complete commitment to this series.
You Are My Sunshine is surprisingly well acted. The story centers around Khoa, played by The’ Bang. He is a studious student and is pretty much a loner except for his female friend named Han (Lykio). She, being the antithesis of Khoa, is bubbly, gregarious, boisterous and protects Khoa. Khoa is withdrawn, pretty much a recluse and gay. He knows he is gay and so does everyone else. As such, he is constantly being picked on by others. One day as he is walking, Khoa is hit accidentally by a basketball by Truong (Khai Van). Truong offers his apology but does so in a rather condescending and mocking way. Per chance, both happen to be in the same study class. Truong is informed by his friend that Khoa is a very smart person, and he is constantly picked on by others because he is gay. Having felt bad for calling him ‘gay’, Truong tries to befriend him. As their relationship solidifies, Quyen (Thanh Truc), who thinks of herself as Truong’s supposed girlfriend, begins to sense something happening between them. There are some very soft and tender moments that take place quickly in this series. It works and you believe their budding relationship. Truong begins to realize that he is attracted to Khoa and really wants to be with him and obviously the same reciprocal feelings are felt by Khoa.
At the end, there is a very adorable scene that shows the two of them studying together and somehow, without really seeing it, it just feels like they have something going on between them for a while. When Khoa reaches to get his phone, it appears that he will kiss Truong (expecting it) but does not. Truong asks him if he is teasing him and Khoa says he has no idea what he is talking about. But in that quick exchange, we realize that these two have established an intense relationship. As then Truong leans in to try to kiss Khoa, they both turn and with big smiles, look into the camera and say, “Wait for Season 2”. I smiled and clapped and was totally taken in by these two. Impressive! Normally, I would have thought that was a cheap trick, but these two have such awesome chemistry together that it really works. It made me smile. It was on the strength and believability of these two rather cute and adorable actors that made this whole thing come alive. The looks were spot on. The expressions said all the things that even without translations you could have figured out. One could sense Khoa’s loneliness and desire to be with someone. You could also feel Truong becoming enamored by Khoa. This is all done because of the believable acting abilities of these two, as all of this is accomplished in less than 30 minutes. What takes some series 8 to 12 episodes to do, they did in two episodes and so very effectively.
You Are My Stupid Boy is a continuation of the same story, with its origins based off a previous series called Stupid Boys, Stupid Love. The one thing that this series has going for it, along with the others in this set, is its total fervor towards the overall story. I have nothing but complete admiration for everyone in this production.
In this brief series, The’ Bang and Khai Van reprise their roles of Khao and Truong being in a relationship that has grown to the point where Truong is taking Khoa to meet his mother, played convincingly by Tran Chi. Initially wanting to tell his mother about the two of them being a couple, Truong is blind-sided by his mother’s questioning about when he is getting married and having grandchildren. So, he hesitates. Unbeknownst to them, Quyen follows them to Truong’s hometown and introduces herself as Truong’s girlfriend to his mother. She simply cannot accept that Truong does not want her and is in love with Khoa. Coming to their rescue is his ’brother and sister duo’, Nhat Minh (Ngoan Trong) and Onah (Oanh Oanh) and Minh’s boyfriend, Trong Nghia (Hoa Dan). Onah cannot tolerate Quyen’s attempt to thwart the Truong and Khoa’s relationship and is irritating her at every step. Unfortunately, Quyen manipulates the mother into witnessing and overhearing a conversation between her son and Khoa, and she realizes that they have a relationship together. But Quyen, thinking she has the upper hand, promises to put a stop to this so Truong will realize his mistake and come back to her. However, Trong Nghia happens to witness what Quyen did and tells Truong to talk to his mother immediately. The wonderful exchange between Truong and his mother is a thing of beauty to watch. While the mother would like to have grandchildren, she wants her son to be happy foremost and to live his life. And at the end says to her son, “If it is not Quyen, I am happy.” She saw through Quyen’s phoniness and didn’t want her son to associate with her. I thought that was not only humorous, but an astute observation. Oanh gladly packs Quyen’s bag and in a huff, she leaves.
These are such charming, straightforward series. I get that this is a continuation of a simple, basic story of love between two young men who are yet so new at this that they are still trying to figure it out. (Along with Nhat Minh and Trong Nghia). That is what gives the show its charm. There is nothing deep in these series and maybe I am feeling overly sentimental towards them. These series simply made me feel wistful – recalling back to what my days were like growing up gay and lonely, and yearning for the same hope that these two have at this stage in their lives, and, most importantly, wishing I could have shared my thoughts with family as well.
Sure, these are low-budget productions with technical issues with sound and visual deficiencies. But what these series might have lacked was made up in its heart, commitment, and a strong human connection to the characters. It just feels real. It has a soul and a complete likeability for its characters in that we know they will do the right thing. Honestly, I could feel their connection to each of their characters. There is something so genuine about Vietnamese BL’s that makes them feel honest, authentic, and intrinsic. I love to see a production that gives it all, even if it might fall a bit short in its complete effort. It was not due to a lack of trying.
In its quiet way, it shows that changes are occurring, and acceptance is perhaps closer than we think. They present this acceptance in a soft, relatable, placid tone and it feels as if gay relationships are ok. In other words, they have normalized them to the extent that they could. It makes gay relationships universal.
Just enjoy and be entertained. I absolutely was.
Rating: 4.2 out of 5