Chinese romances are my favorite guilty pleasure — they’re shorter than other Chinese dramas, and they scratch the persistent dating-to-marriage itch I experience on a regular basis. I recently binged With You on iQIYI, but I was less than satisfied. Come see if you would want those hours back too!
From My Drama List: “When Geng Geng enters Zhen Hua High School, she is seated next to top student Yu Huai. While she’s struggling with homework and exams, she suddenly also gets a new mom and younger brother. After entering Zhen Hua High School, however, her lonely life comes to an end. With new friends on her side, especially Yu Huai, she lives through the three years till graduation. Suddenly after graduation, the boy she came to like disappears. When she meets Yu Huai again, will she choose the love she could never forget or will she choose Lu Xing He who pursued her all these years?”
Why I Started Watching
So, I love Chinese high school romances for the most part. I’m starting to understand that it goes against the cultural norm for Chinese to date in high school, so that makes it forbidden love to start. And generally these couples go down the hate-to-love path, which is ALWAYS fun. This definitely checks off a few boxes on my “favorite tropes” list.
About 8 episodes into With You, I decided to read a couple of spoiler-free reviews. I’m glad I did, because I was getting frustrated with the romance. It turns out that With You is meant to have more of a slice-of-life feel, which changed my view on the pacing. Always helpful when I’m getting impatient.
The two leads, Geng Geng (played by Seven Tan) and Yu Huai (played by Turbo Liu), had AMAZING chemistry. They were so comfortable with each other, and their relationship progressed perfectly. I loved them together, and I loved watching them interact with their friends. The second lead, Lu Xinghe (played by Wang Li Xin), has an intriguing devil-may-care attitude that made him fascinating to watch.
So What Went Wrong?
Oh man, it kills me to even be writing this! This morning, With You was all I could think about. Now that I’ve finished the series, I want to punch a wall. Or scream into the void. SOMETHING to release the rage.
The series fell apart in two ways — one that rests entirely on the director, the other that actually rests on iQiYi’s shoulders. (Thar be spoilers ahead, matey. Ye be warned!)
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
WRITING/DIRECTING/EDITING: Episodes 23 and 24 incorporated a 9-year time jump, which I expected. HOWEVER, the storytelling was SO choppy and convoluted that it nearly lost the emotional impact it would have had. The director cut up a frustrated kiss scene in such a way that I nearly didn’t understand what was happening — literally one second Geng Geng was jumping on the couch, and the next second she was in Yu Huai’s arms, kissing the crap out of him.
During the kiss, I could see Yu Huai’s pain, so his rejection afterwards didn’t surprise me. BUT THE KISS!! There was no lead-in, no building of tension, NOTHING. I swear they must have handed it off to an intern and given them a time limit for the scene and no direction. I haven’t seen such ham-handed editing in a LONG time. The acting alone saved it.
And then when Geng Geng goes to visit Yu Huai’s mother in the hospital and gets the story behind his disappearance, the story his mom tells is convoluted and unresolved. It kind of gives a foundation to Yu Huai telling Geng Geng he would never be able to give her a happy life, but not fully. GRRR NOBLE IDIOCY — one of my most hated tropes.
IQIYI: I need to write a strongly worded letter to iQIYI. As a streaming service, I love them — I can get my Chinese drama fix anytime I want, and they’re great about saving my place across devices. HOWEVER, in all the dramas I’ve watching on iQIYI, THEY HAVEN’T TRANSLATED WRITING.
This is pivotal because the final scenes of With You rely heavily on a handwritten note that Geng Geng shoves at Yu Huai, a text conversation she has with him before the final scene, and a final text that she sends him at the end of the conversation that determines the fate of their relationship.
I’m fairly sure that she just said something like, “If you want to be together, show up at our old spot on this day.” And he finally does. But without truly knowing that, that final scene is robbed of its emotional impact. And they don’t even kiss!! They stand about six to eight feet apart and SMILE AT EACH OTHER.
With You was still a delightful slice-of-drama, and the ensemble as a whole was fun to watch. If you’re capable of overlooking poorly handled endings, you just might enjoy it! As for me, I want those hours back.
Until my next drama binge, I remain —
Karie the Maknae
Dramas with a Side of Kimchi