Binge-worthy: Remembrance Of Things Past a realistic look at living in Beijing

Remembrance Of Things Past is a refreshing, down-to-earth and sometimes brutal look at the lives of ordinary working adults in Beijing.
Remembrance Of Things Past is a refreshing, down-to-earth and sometimes brutal look at the lives of ordinary working adults in Beijing.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM MANGOTV DRAMA/YOUTUBE

Remembrance of Things Past

MangoTV Drama channel on YouTube

4 stars

Chinese drama Remembrance Of Things Past, which revolves around the friendships, careers and romances of women in a big city, may sound familiar.

But for those who think the story resembles that of the glossy C-drama Ode To Joy (2016 to 2017), think again.

This show is a refreshing, down-to-earth and sometimes brutal look at the lives of ordinary working adults in Beijing.

The first episode is bookended by a shocking and tragic event that grounds the narrative of the 12-part series, which examines the realities of being a woman and a young person looking for material success, personal growth and love.

Here are three reasons to tune in.

1. Realistic story

The four women at the centre of the show are known as "bei piao"- a term that describes those who leave their provincial home towns to carve out a living in Beijing - and the series explores their struggles in depth.

The characters board overly packed trains to get to work, encounter unreasonable superiors, worry about job security and deal with office politics and overtime culture. There are also frank discussions about money - from the price of a bottle of whisky to purchasing a home.

These elements combine to paint a gritty and realistic portrait of life in the Chinese capital.

2. Stellar acting

The strong cast makes this series shine. Budding star Zhou Yutong (period drama Young Blood, 2019) gives a nuanced performance as Qiao Xichen, who comes closest to being the lead character in this ensemble drama.

With just subtle changes in expressions and modulations in her voice, she conveys the varied emotions - be it frustration or grief - of her character.

Film actress Ren Suxi (comedy movie Mr Donkey, 2016) is also excellent in one of her rare television outings. She plays Ji Nanjia, a single career woman in her mid-30s who tries her best to shoulder all her problems.

But the true standout is Jin Jing, who plays Hu Jingjing. Better known as a comedienne, she flexes her dramatic chops here with a heartbreaking portrayal of someone whose cheerful front masks her exhaustion.

3. Friendships and a slow-burn romance

Despite the sombre note of the opening episode and the serious issues depicted in the series, there are moments of warmth and joy, particularly when the women gather together, supporting and relying on one another for advice or company.

Due to the unique way the series is set up, the story often threads present and past together, giving their relationship a sense of history.

There is also a love interest for Zhou's character in the form of her boss, the new head of marketing.

The romance between superior and subordinate unfolds in an unhurried and genuine way, as the two gradually get to know each other.