With A Love So Beautiful, Chinese television turns its hand to trendy romcoms

With A Love So Beautiful, the Chinese television industry is turning its hand to trendy romcoms

The future is quietly, yet surely, arriving - that day when China will wield considerable soft power and trendy Chinese dramas will be as prevalent as K-dramas are now and Taiwanese dramas once were.

And it may start with something like A Love So Beautiful, a Chinese high school romcom that is as polished and artfully sugar-dusted as anything from South Korean, Taiwanese and Japanese dream factories.

At first blush, the show is as innocuous as they come. It is another story of puppy love, in which a happy-go-lucky teenager, Chen Xiaoxi (Shen Yue), pursues Jiang Chen (Hu Yitian), an aloof genius who lives next door and sits next to her in their soft-lit classroom.

They just happen to be opposites both in temperament and height (she is small enough to be his Pokemon and he is tall and doe-eyed enough to consider a career in modelling).

And despite China's one-child policy, Jiang Chen also happens to have a cheeky little brother, who is smarter than him when it comes to reading female behaviour and who has advice to give.

Seriously though, the show is a charm offensive.

In a matter of years, Chinese television has been drawing level with, or surpassing, its East Asian counterparts. Recent Chinese period dramas such as Empresses In The Palace (2011) and Nirvana In Fire (2015) are highly sophisticated.

Now, the Chinese are turning their hands to trendy mini dramas and A Love So Beautiful is clearly the work of people who have studied successful romcoms from Taiwan's It Started With A Kiss (2005) to South Korea's My Love From The Star (2013).

Actress Shen Yue and actor Hu Yitian in A Love So Beautiful.
Actress Shen Yue and actor Hu Yitian in A Love So Beautiful. PHOTO: A LOVE SO BEAUTIFUL/WEIBO

Accordingly, A Love So Beautiful is loaded with cuteness, from the buoyant theme song to the jokey reveal at the end of every episode (say, a flashback to a drunken day in Jiang Chen's childhood, or a replay of a conversation that reveals what he is really thinking).


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But by the same token, some bits feel borrowed or overly calculated - they play more like homework than inspired comedy.

For my money, A Love So Beautiful is sweet and light, but never strikes that sparkly, bubbly note of swoony romance.

The Chinese will be back though. Shen is starring in a new adaptation of the trailblazing Taiwanese romcom Meteor Garden (2001), which might just start a Chinese Wave.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2017, with the headline 'Sweet trends are made of this'. Subscribe