Kind of a better love story than Twilight
Love is special, but this movie? Not so much.
I’d like to preface this review by saying that I’m usually a fan of Kris Wu’s works. In fact, he is the sole reason why I went to see Never Gone. So forgive me for starting this review by saying that I wish this movie was better than it was.
A film adaptation of a novel by Xin Yiwu, Never Gone finds Su Yunjin (played by Liu Yifei) as she encounters her firsts in love, loss, and coming of age.As a teenager, Su Yunjin is sent off to the best private school her working-class parents could afford in modern-day China. She crosses paths with the rich and handsome Cheng Zheng (played by Kris Wu), and the film sets off following their journey as the two fall in love and try to fit each other into their polar opposite lives.
The film was established as the second instalment of the So Young series, which played in favour to its initial hype. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the first movie grossed $114.7 million in 2013; in its opening weekend, Never Gone was reported to have grossed $26.7 million domestically. It saw a limited release in North America, New Zealand and Australia, and on 22 July 2016, opened in select theatres across the UK.
Never Gone is the second film in which Kris Wu plays a starring role, his first being Peng Zeyang in Xu Jinglei’s 2015 drama, Somewhere Only We Know. As a rookie actor, his playfulness shines in his portrayal of the love-struck Cheng Zheng, which softens up the sentimental overtones of this film. However, scenes that required emotional intensity showed his lack of experience, as his tendency leaned towards exaggeration.
A lot of the movie is Twilight-esque in exposition: upon their first meeting, Cheng Zheng saves Su Yunjin from getting hit with a baseball, in a move that resembled Edward saving Bella from getting hit by a van. Su Yunjin also becomes the focus of Cheng Zheng’s affection, seemingly without having done anything. It wouldn’t even be far off to say that Su Yunjin resembled Bella Swan, in her introversion towards everything.
But in the same way that Kristen Stewart can’t be blamed for playing a lifeless Bella (personally, I found Adventureland showcased her real acting skills), Liu Yifei cannot be faulted for a wooden portrayal of Su Yunjin. In instances where we see Liu Yifei take Su Yunjin out of her introspective shell, Liu Yifei subtly delivers a genuine portrayal of a young woman trying to gain control over the chaos in her life.
Never Gone attempts to cram 8 years worth of story within a 2 hour time span. As a result, the film suffers from lack of character development and overall resolution. Not a lot of time is given for moments sink in before moving on to the next thing; in that sense, it became difficult to connect to the story itself. Admittedly, I never watched the first installation of the series, so it’s hard to tell if cohesion was lost in the process of adapting the novel into a script, or if it had to do with Zhou Tuo Ru’s directing style.
The cast felt right for this film, and the actors were able to portray their characters honestly. I unexpectedly fell in love with the subplot between class clown Zhou Ziyi (played by Jin Shijia) and Su Yunjin’s best friend Mo Yuhua (played by Li Meng), as it had a lot of heart despite its unhappy end. Interactions between the rest of the characters, however, sometimes felt awkward; again, this was due to the fact that moments in the film were not given sufficient time to steep.
Overall, Never Gone isn’t the great summer romcom I hoped it would be, but it’s filled with enough cute and light-hearted moments to warrant a Saturday afternoon viewing with friends. I would definitely suggest it to those who are already fans of the actors, especially Jin Shijia.