Tuesday, July 14, 2020

SoulMate / 七月与安生 - Movie Review

The Movie: SoulMate / 七月与安生

The Director: Derek Tsang

The Cast: Zhou Dongyu, Ma Sichun, Toby Lee

The Story: Two women who have been close friends since adolescence must cope with the changes that maturity brings.

The Review:
This movie is quite simply the most beautifully written love story I have seen in years. How in the world did this movie sneak by me when it came out in 2016? Every single thing about the story, which was adapted from a popular novel by celebrated author Qing Shan, is just wonderfully crafted cinematic perfection with heavy emphasis, and I mean all the emphasis, on the performances from the two lead actors, Zhou Dongyu and Ma Sichun. They did after all shock the Chinese cinematic world by being the first ever co winners of the best actress award at the 53rd Golden Horse Film Awards which is China's equivalent of the Academy Awards.

I mentioned that this movie is a love story and it very much is, just not in the traditional type of way you are expecting or are used to seeing. The writing team, a group of five women, took great care in adding layers of depth to the friendships, the relationships, and the families in a way that is so emotionally engaging that I was exhausted by the time it had all unfurled. There are twists and turns, shocking surprises and satisfying payoffs throughout the movie. Several key points of the story will have your emotions bubbling and surfacing in all kinds of different ways and the way it is all wrapped up in the end is so extremely satisfying mainly because of the difficult journey it took to get there.

As far as those award winning performances, I don't know if I would have been able to choose between the two if given the task so I can see why they were both given the top honor. Individually, the characters are so unique and also mirror images of each other. They grow apart, they grow together, they grow because of each other and in spite of each other and the two leave no doubt whatsoever that the movie's title fits them to a tee. Zhou Dongyu plays Li Ansheng who starts off the movie as a sort of wild child and instigator of antics that are the antithesis of the more mild mannered and introverted Lin Qiyue, played by Ma Sichun.

I honestly don't know if I have the proper words to describe the quality of performance from each of these women, this was true greatness captured in cinematic form. What I can say is that they each embody the spirit of the story and their characters in such a way that is very believable yet still maintains an almost fairy tale like quality. I don't mean fairy tale like fantasy or something like that, what I mean is more of a just left of center reality and there are some moments that make us look at reality in different ways. As I think about this aspect of the film, it's hard to describe without giving away some key secrets so you'll just have to understand it better after you watch the movie.

It's interesting to note that the producers and director of the movie hired the two lead actors without knowing which one would play each of the two roles. I'm glad they went with who they did although, given the nature of the story, I could also see them reversed and have it work just as well. Zhou Dongyu caught my attention in another film called Better Days which I thought she was brilliant in and, I have to say, her work in this movie is even more impressive and I am quickly becoming a big fan of her work, She has a very unique on screen presence and her personality just jumps out at you and you can't wait to see what she's going to do next.

The story will actually make you wonder if what is real and what is made up can be better or worse than the other, I guess in similar ways of what we learn in both The Farewell and Life of Pi. Sometimes people are better off knowing an altered or completely different version of reality instead of carrying the burden of what may have actually been real. This plays out in a few different ways and is the cause of most of the emotional heavy lifting although again I can't really go into more detail because spoilers. I feel like I've said more than enough already. With that I will encourage you to see this movie for yourself and be prepared with some tissue, you are going to need it.

The Verdict:
I said this at the beginning of the review and I will say it again. SoulMate is the most beautifully written love story I have seen in years. It redefines everything you thought you knew about the concepts of love and friendship. It takes what you thought this movie was going to be, flips it upside down and turns it into a transcendent movie going experience. The only thing I don't like about this movie is that it took me four years to find it.

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