TV Binge: You’re My Destiny (Fated to Love You/命中注定我愛你, 2008)

You’re My Destiny (命中注定我愛你, 2008)

fated to love you

Director: Ming Zhang Chen

Cast: Joe Chen, Ethan Juan, Baron Chen, Bianca Bai, Ai Zhen Tan, Bruce Chen, Jessica Song, Jack Na, Mei Xiu Lin

An ordinary girl marries a handsome heir after she became pregnant with his child from a one night stand. – IMDB

Updated Nov.15: Available on Netflix (Canada)

STORY

You're My Destiny

Back in 2008, You’re My Destiny was a big deal. I only remember because a lot of people were talking about it but I was in the phase of moving away from Taiwanese dramas so I never caught onto it until last year and recently rewatching it this year.

You’re My Destiny, which I remembered was called Fated to Love You is about an ordinary working class girl called Xin Yi Chen (a name that they emphasize is about as normal and regular as there are a ton of them in every location) who is what they would call a “sticky note girl”, who is a girl that just follows other people’s instructions and helps every way they can and doesn’t’ have a personality of her own. The set-up is that she goes on a cruise with her boyfriend to hopefully hold his heart but then due to all kinds of coincidences, she ends up meeting a the sole heir of a personal hygiene (most known for their natural soap) company Cun Xi who has been ditched by his girlfriend Anna and also through all kinds of coincidences, has a one night stand where she later finds out she gets pregnant and they are asked to get married. Can a baby bring together two people who don’t love each other?

LENGTH/PACING

Episodes: 39 episodes
Episode length: 40 minutes

39 episodes for any romantic comedy/drama series is always a bit on the long side. You’re My Destiny definitely feels like it runs a bit too long. It was much more fun before the whole separation, which while was needed the whole part in Shanghai went on probably a few episodes too long. The character development needed the shift but at the same time, the whole coming back together process in the portion after then took up a lot of time and felt like it dragged on for too long for the sake of adding in unnecessary drama, even though it did make the effort through it to take its time to address all the loose ends from Dylan (2nd male lead character) search for his sister and settling Cun Xi’s girlfriend situation as well as giving his assistant, his grandma and Xin Yi’s sisters all having some kind of wrap-up.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

As with most TV dramas, its all about the characters and their chemistry because that is what builds their ships. You’re My Destiny, where this is the original version, has some really nice characters. It has a lot to do with its cast. The ones that excel has to go to Joe Chen as the female lead as well as one of Baron Chen’s first roles as the second male lead as Dylan. Ethan Juan as the first male lead Cun Xi actually out of character design is the type of character that is hard to fight for because he treats Xin Yi really bad for the majority and is a rather selfish character, bad in communicating his feelings or even being honest with his feelings.

You're My Destiny

The first pairing to look at is the first female/male characters, Xin Yi and Cun Xi who has a fairly gradual development in their relationship especially as they get married due to an accidental pregnancy. However, it goes through a lot of bumps as it starts off with the anticipation of a divorce after the whole deed is done. Suffice to say all Cun Xi’s idea and the way he treats her makes it hard to root for his success in the second half of the series when it takes part when Xin Yi transforms herself into Elaine after a story plot transition. While parts of his resentment does make sense, its also a very spoiled character for Cun Xi that makes his character difficult to like, but elevates the other supporting characters like his grandmother or assistant that points these things out to him as he slowly (I mean really slowly) figures things out.

You're My Destiny

The next pairing is the rather one sided love of Dylan (played by Baron Chen) to Xin Yi which is brought together some kind of destiny as well. Dylan is the typical type of fantastic second male lead that feels very perfect both in his more mature approach to different dilemmas and being there for Xin Yi whenever she needs help and is neglected, as well as his willing to help her achieve her happiness regardless of his own and trying to make Xin Yi better. Everything that you’d want from a relationship for a lovable female lead like Xin Yi who feels very innocent but is somewhat bullied in her relationship. Call him her guardian angel or her ultimate support and backup but they were the relationship that we want to happen but of course, doesn’t.

There are some sweet moments between both of them regardless of the couples. Was there great chemistry between any of these pairings? They are some very good swoon-worthy ones. At the same time, some of the chemistry between the family relationship especially bringing in the element of Cun Xi’s grandmother who is the overdramatic and manipulative element that propels the story forward as well as Xin Yi’s family from her sister’s in-laws to her 2 sisters to her mother all adding quite a lot of comedic elements here. And well, there’s this somewhat square relationship so we can’t ignore Cun Xi’s actual girlfriend Anna who also wasn’t present enough but felt like she had a similar type of character to Cun Xi due to her selfishness and living by her choices and trying to play the pity card when things don’t go to her plans.

OVERALL

You’re My Destiny 2008 is the original version of this story made in Taiwan and holds the record for a highest average single episode rating. No doubt Joe Chen and its array of supporting cast with a lot of acting credits at the time of the airing that brought in a lot of its initial hype, this drama really shines because of her role as Chen Xin Yi. It brings out a type of girls and the chemistry works a lot because of her character development and the balance of comedy and romance. The series does do a change in between as the main couple separates and it can get frustrating watching now with the whole bad communication causing a lot of the issues here especially by the male lead that makes the story drag on at times. The series itself could definitely have benefited from wrapping up the last 10 episodes faster paced. Does it quite live up to its hype? I have to say that in the 2000s, there’s a lot of other series that probably delivered better especially on rewatchability. I rewatch this one mostly for Joe Chen and Baron Chen’s performances and the hilarious grandmother role that cracks me up all the time.

MAIN THEME

Other info related to You’re My Destiny, there are two remakes of this series: the first is a Korean remake in 2014 called You Are My Destiny and the second is a Thailand remake in 2017 called You’re My Destiny. 

Fantasia Festival 2018: Big Brother (World Premiere 2018)

Big Brother (2018)

Big Brother

Director: Ka-Wai Kam

Cast: Donnie Yen, Joe Chen, Yu Kang, Mingji Lou, Fung Woo

Big Brother is an unexpected title in Donnie Yen’s filmography however, also one that he has been wanting to do. It is about education and sending the positive message that everyone can follow their dreams even those left behind and ignored by the very competitive Hong Kong education system. It only takes an honest and passionate educator to go beyond their duties to make sure their students go back on the right path. Playing as Mr. Chen, Yen’s role is one that marries the sparse but exciting action scenes that we have come to expect with a more profound dramatic moments focussing specifically on five of the students considered the losers in the “bad” class. His heartfelt performance has some comedic moments especially in the unorthodox way of teaching which fits incredibly well to this out of the box character.

Big Brother

While there are some cameo and supporting roles with more seasoned actors and actresses especially the Taiwanese actress Joe Chen as one of the teachers and Fung Woo as the ex-principal in an inspiring role as well, the five young actors are all first time actors. This decision is a smart one to keep their stories feel real and genuine.  While some of the stories feel dramatized for the movie, the reality is that in the Hong Kong society, their stories are common: alcoholic dad; Hong Kong born Pakistani origins; daughters feeling less important than sons and the high risk of the triad preying on high school students to get them to do their dirty work. For these young cast, they did a great job at each of their respective roles as they each had their own dreams which broke the barrier of the expectations of where they are from.

Big Brother

A lot of praise does have to go to assistant director turned director Ka-Wai Kam as he steps into the director’s chair a fourth time with this project. It is obvious that he has a lot of experience tucked away with the way he maneuvers his shots to capture the moments. He finds a way to add in the action seamlessly to a more dramatic film while not forgetting the focal point of reflecting how a flawed education system breeds the issues that are occurring and puts its focus on a few members to give these characters their well-deserved development and never making them feel disposable. Not to mention, the scenes itself speak for themselves and how these vibrant characters have connected with its audience.

World premiering at Fantasia Festival a whole two and a half weeks before its release in Hong Kong, Big Brother brings both heartwarming and heartbreaking stories about some very real and human everyday life aspects of the Hong Kong education system, the criticism towards its teachers and the society views of it all.  Add this to your collection of inspirational education movies like Freedom Writers, Big Brother might have some societal barriers to understand some of the finer details but its heart to bring a positive message and highlight the flaws in the current education system is one that needs to be addressed. It takes one person willing to go above and beyond to make a difference. It’s perfectly suitable for Donnie Yen. Big Brother is a positively inspiring movie that manages to tug at your heartstrings and cheer for following your dreams and paying it forward.

TV Binge: Easy Fortune Happy Life (2009)

We’re back for another TV Binge!

I’m not going to lie. This one has been sitting in backlog for a long time. I just always had something more important, well, like the Halloween marathon in October and then NaNoWriMo came by and I put a lot of TV binges on hold. Regardless, I mentioned this before when I did my other Taiwanese series write-up, but they hold a special place in my heart. Now that Netflix carries more and more of them. I just can’t help and rightfully binge watch them. Because if you are a Taiwanese drama fan, you know that when you can binge-watch it, you will. It is the only way to watch it.

The next one is Easy Fortune Happy Life. I’ve never even heard of this one before but that is because in 2009, I had basically fallen out of Taiwanese series completely. The reason of why I chose to watch this one is mostly because I know the cast in it for the most part and I like them quite a bit. Good enough reason for me usually.

Let’s check it out!

Easy Fortune Happy Life (2009)

Easy Fortune Happy Life

Director: Liu Jun Jie

Cast: Joe Chen, Roy Qiu, Cheng Long Lan, Jocelyn Wang, Qiang Ding, Zi Xian Chen, Xiu Jie Kai, Dong Zhi Cheng, Wang Juan, Hsia Ching Ting

Love spans generations in this tale of the one of who got away. Huang Chun Xiang saves the life of a young hunter by treating him with herbal medicine. Despite years of waiting for him and eventually raising her own family, Chun Xiang never loses faith that he will return. Chance brings the man — now elderly and the founder of a successful pharmaceuticals company — and her granddaughter Xie Fu An (Chen Qiao En) together. Struck by her uncanny appearance to Chun Xiang, he swears to give away his fortune to the man who marries her. However, his grandson Yan Da Feng (Lan Cheng Long) is none too happy about the possibility of losing his fortune, but soon learns you just can’t fight fate. – Drama Fever

Taiwan series are obsessed with Cinderella story. It is probably because it can have a lot of fun twists to inject into it. Everyone likes the down to earth girl who meets a rich guy and falls into fortune. Easy Fortune Happy Life turns this around a little. Fu An is a kind and down to earth country girl who is actually quite naive to the evil in the world. When she meets this family, the audience knows how horrible this family is and particularly greedy and selfish. We learn that this is the fault of the grandfather who is almost on his death bed and also realizes that his family is no longer one that cares because of the way he has taught them and how he runs his business and treats others. Suddenly, Fu An is not only Cinderella but one with power. While she doesn’t know that she is the key to the inheritance and is being wooed by Yan Da Feng, she holds more power than she actually realizes. We all know how this story is going to go. Easy Fortune Happy Life can only be criticized as being way too predictable but then, in the most heartwarming way, it still manages to strike a chord and tug a little at those heartstrings as we see the truthfulness of Fu An and how she has genuinely changed Yan Da Feng. Full credit goes to Joe Chen and Cheng Long Lan that bring these two characters to life in their contrasting personality.

Easy Fortune Happy Life

While our main couple’s story is a lot of fun to watch, their story sometimes gets a little dragged out and maybe at times repetitive. The only way this is stopped is with some great supporting characters. I’m going to admit (and I probably have a thousand times before) that I love supporting characters in Taiwanese series. Actually, they might be my favorite because they usually are the ones that prove to be the most well-crafted and just perfect in so many ways. In this case, I almost fell in love in Roy Qiu’s character of Han Dong Jie who plays an orphan guy who pretty much runs a loan shark business for the Big Boss but is trying to be as legit as possible. Right from the get go, we know that he is actually quite gentle and if anything, he can put a good front no matter what happens and very early, he becomes the protection that Fu An has. Actually, he is labelled as the guardian angel. This is the first time I’ve seen Roy Qiu and just the character design, from his physical appearance (like clothing, hairstyle) to his personality and the development of the character from the beginning until the end, I just love so very much. I connected with his character so much that I think his character made me care more about Fu An than if this character wasn’t there. Actually, he has a few other series on Netflix and I’m going to watch those soon-ish.

Easy Fortune Happy Life

Roy Qiu is great but then, this story still needs comedy. It is a romantic comedy series after all. And no one does that better than the silly cast in the background that sometimes helps ease away the overly dramatic moments. The little brother of Fu An, the silly sister and brother in law of Yan Da Feng, the right hand man of Han Dong Jie and the Village Chief in Fu An’s village where she came from and even the grandfather played a huge part in having those moments. While they do contribute to it at times, a lot of times, the silliness and pure stupidity of these characters and their decisions and even the dialogue they are given can be a little excessively stupid in a WTF moment but at the same time, it is hard to not laugh.

With that said, Easy Fortune Happy Life might not be perfect but it has a lot of perfectly fun characters. The cast itself is the winning factor of this series. The story is predictable, just like what Id say about a lot of romantic comedies (Hollywood in particular), but it is how you twist the scenario that adds a little more flair and character to the story itself. For that, even at its lengthy and repetitive bits here and there, I still found that I liked this one a good bit. I’m not running back to rewatch it any time soon but I won’t hold off the possibility of watching it again (even if its just to see Roy Qiu’s Han Dong Jie again).