“In Your Heart” Series Review (Ep.1 to 8)

This is an astonishing and brilliant exercise in cinematic adroitness that has been, unfortunately misunderstood and misinterpreted, but not necessarily incorrectly. Does that sound like an oxymoron? Perhaps.

It is distinguishable because of its simplicity, yet imparts a profound and deeply moving story of pure love, not that of the fairytale type. If you watch it as a metaphor for life, you will understand its symbolism. It is an allegory. From what I have been able to deduce, this series was produced in China but distributed through Hong Kong. That in and of itself is astonishing since all of us who are gay know what the Chinese government thinks of us and how repressive they are. This show is albeit a remarkable journey.

While I understand and empathize to a degree with some of the unrelated scenes from this show, I simply do not fully subscribe to the criticisms of this series (that the actions taken seemed random). To me, they made perfect sense. In today’s world, we see things through our own prism and our own experiences and tend to shut out what does not fit. To understand this series, I chose to watch it through their prism, which indeed was much like my own growing up.

It is a story between two friends who grew up together. Cheng Yi (Hu Shi Wen), is a troublemaker and has a short temper. His counterpart is his best friend, Ling Zi Ming (Hu Bo Wen). The two have been close friends since grade school and are intertwined with each other. They are the Yin and Yang to one other. Both love each other, but on different levels. Ling Zi is deeply in love with him and senses and knows that he is. Cheng Yi’s feelings are more hidden, and he is unable to bring them to a cognizant level; but they are definitely there. I completely understand where these two are in their development. They cannot bring it to awareness because of societal pressures and internal frailties, much like me when I grew up. It was simply not ‘right’.

This story is a journey of understanding who they are to each other and what they mean to one another. They have been and shall always be in love. They are soulmates even if they do not fully understand that yet or fully comprehend its power. It is a story of pretense. They pretend to be friends. They pretend to be like brothers. Cheng Yi pretends to like a girl. But that only takes them so far. Until finally, on Ling Zi’s birthday, which happens to be Christmas, Cheng Yi decides to spend the time with his ‘girlfriend’, rather than Ling Zi which he has always done. His girlfriend is a representative figure. While real, she is an allegory. She tells him that his heart is not with her but with his friend and they belong together. I thought it was an astonishing soliloquy and perfectly delivered (on Christmas day) giving him permission to be himself. “Look into your heart”, she says. While he might like her, “what you want to pursue is not always the best for you”. (She is like Christmas present from a Christmas Carol). He realizes where he must be and rushes back only for Ling Zi to be waiting for him out in the cold. As if it were Christmas magic, they kiss. I got it completely and understood the deep connection between the two. It just felt so right. And had to be. It was meant to be. Still, the kiss did not yet make them understand the depth of their bond. It was muted because they both lacked the ability to embrace what really happened to them. Nevertheless, I was so moved by this not-quite-understood transition from friends to soulmates.

Even the introduction of an individual who is a ‘Savior” (good) for them, Lu Xiang Lin (Huang Bo Zhi) who, admittedly is one of the handsomest actors I have ever seen, cannot dent the bond that the two have with each other. He helps Cheng Yi merely to get close to Ling Zi; as it is obvious, he is also interested in him. But Ling Zi’s only focus is on Cheng Yi. Despite his attempts, Lu Xiang is and only will be a friend, no matter what the temptations are. The one who got Cheng Yi in trouble, Yue Yuzhi (Meng Yue Chen) is an instigator and also a ‘bad’ person. Having seen what the three other guys now have, he wants to be ‘friends’ as well and asks forgiveness for his transgressions, which he receives. Therefore, you have these four guys forming a bond, each different, but connected to one another through a union of friendship and understanding. So, you have ‘good’ and ‘bad’ side-by-side with ‘yin and yang’.

Cheng Yi lives with his grandmother; being abandoned by his mother years ago (she does come back into the picture). There is an astonishing and beautiful exchange between mother and son as she comes back and tries to get him to come live with her. It is profoundly moving but represents in reality a transitioning point between adolescence and adulthood. He must learn to grow up. He poignantly explains to his mother who he is and where he is. Perhaps that is the catalyst for him to now ‘see’ his relationship with Li Zing at another level. His grandmother, who represents the past and a sense of comfort, tells him she can no longer take care of him, and he must look forward; not back, and has to move with his mother. In other words, he is becoming an adult.

Unfortunately, Cheng Yi does not tell Li Zing that he is leaving and going to live with his mother. Here is where the story gets real, raw, and sad. Li Zing is upset and hurt that he would have left without seeing him and why did he not tell him? Cheng Yi replies that he was ‘afraid that he would not be able to accept the separation’. That is gut-wrenchingly real and honest, of course. It is overpowering. It is crushing to leave your soulmate. The pain of separation is unbearable. For both! Li Zing asks him if they are still ‘friends”; meaning what? Cheng Yi mockingly says that we kissed and implies we are way more than friends and he wants Li Zing to admit that. He asks him three times, each time angrier and more aggressive with Li Zing fighting back. He simply cannot answer. Finally, Cheng Yi pushes him on the bed and physically attacks him and forces sex on him. A very difficult scene to watch. I have always championed that these scenes should not be glorified. But in this case, I am making an exception because of its allegorical references here and the overwhelming emotions both were feeling from what might be their last time to be together. To not experience each other physically might have been a greater burden of regret to carry throughout life than the way it was carried out. Yet I am torn, conflicted, and pained. Both had to see what they meant to each other. Both knew each other. Both deeply loved each other. Both understood what had to be done so that the intensity of their relationship could be even remotely understood by each other. It had to be. Does it make it right? No. Not everything is so clear in life. In the end, as they lay in bed, satisfied, but profoundly sad, they ask each other, “What are we?” Neither can still answer truthfully. They are afraid to say what they are to each other. And in a tender moment, both admit that they understand each other. It is one of the most profoundly moving scenes in any BL I have ever seen. Why? Because we do NOT know what they really felt, but we believe we understand what they meant, nonetheless. I cried because it completely represents what so many gay people are afraid of- admitting that you love someone of the same sex is wrong – and we cannot even say it. I was so moved by this profound understanding of gay repression in societies that the only way to force an answer from one another is by physicality, not be tenderness or acceptance. What a saddened message and a brilliant portrayal of the struggles of gay people in cultures where you are taught that your feelings do not matter.

This whole series is an enigmatic journey through innuendo, indirect meaning, and pretense. Sure, it is a coming of age told in an adult language and actions, but with adolescent fervor. It is a representation of life told metaphorically. You have to confront its message, which for me was right there. Unfortunately, a lot of people perhaps did not see it or were too engrossed in the sensibilities surrounding the physicality of some of the scenes (which I understand).

The two main leads Hu Shi Wen and Hu Bo Wen are astonishing and brilliant actors. They truly embodied Cheng Yi and Li Zing. They maintained a closeness, almost a brotherhood, but all the time you could tell that they were in love with each other. These actors displayed that throughout this series with quiet fortitude and a deep understanding of their characters. This type of subtleness in facial expressions and mannerisms is a thing of beauty to watch. And yes, the forced sexual encounter was difficult to watch and was wrong. But they know each other, and, in this case, it is up to them to define what it is that happened between them. The other characters were all metaphorical creatures representing something else. At times, they seemed surreal but yet still human. A shout out has to go to Le Xin Yu as Lu Xiang Xin. She is the symbol of what ought to be but simply refused to be hapless. She is like the Oracle of Delphi dispensing wisdom as she sees it, and rather effectively. An astonishing role done with elegance, grace, and understanding.

I am sure that not everyone will see this as the hidden gem it is, but I beg to differ. It worked for me, including the OST (which I normally pay little to no attention to). That seems to have enhanced this series’ emotionality. In the end, there is a montage of their scenes together (which normally I detest). But in this case, it simply reinforced the message of this series as an astounding story of love.

1. Feel me… to see if you can feel my heart

2. Why are we so close together? Because the law of gravity draws us close

3. Where’s the home in my heart? It’s where I am

4. Look at the technique and the delicate texture [of the white scarf]. It is truly from the heart

5. Where are you? I’m in your heart

6. But I feel so close to you. I’m right by your side

7. Why are we so close together? It is the law of gravity

These define and conceptualize love.

I chose to see this series as following the yellow-brick road to love as not always being so gentle, enchanting, or utopian, especially in the gay world. This is a stunning and beautiful narrative of love told allegorically though the lives of two ordinary boys who are inexorably connected, and will, whether we like it or not, become soulmates. I cried throughout this series as I saw it as a creation of an embodiment of faith and devotion; the path is difficult to navigate and follow due to the external forces of societal, cultural, and governmental pressures. I loved this series and am torn significantly because of the abhorrent things that are portrayed to get its message across. Yet it IS part of the story. It hits you. It made me—question. For me, this series is so impactful that it will be on my top ten list for 2022. But you must decide, based on your own sensibilities and prism of life, how to see this series.

Occasionally, I dance to the beat of a different drummer.

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

2 thoughts on ““In Your Heart” Series Review (Ep.1 to 8)”

  1. You were so correct! I apologize. In my haste to get this review in, I did not proofread it carefully enough. Thank you for letting me know. Indeed, it would have changed the story. The corrections have been made.

    Like

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