August 6, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Gavin Lin
Mandarin with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place 2011, in an unnamed city in China, the dramatic film “One Week Friends” has an all-Chinese cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: A new transfer student at a high school has difficulty making friends because she says that some of her memories disappear over the weekend.
Culture Audience: “One Week Friends” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the Japanese “One Week Friends” franchise on which this movie remake is based, as well as appeal to anyone who likes melodramatic and hokey movies about teenagers.
Based on the “One Week Friends” franchise from Japan, this dramatic remake from China aims to be earnest, but ultimately drowns in its sappiness and over-acted sentimentality. In order for this movie to work well, it had to overcome the far-fetched premise of a teenage girl who has a mysterious amnesia that happens on weekends. Therefore, she forgets certain things that occurred earlier that week.
It’s a very flawed concept because her memory loss only applies to things pertaining to her social life, which would be a big clue to anyone that something’s not quite right with her claims of amnesia. And so, unless this movie is supposed to be science fiction (it’s not), the filmmakers have to find a way to make the story believable in a “real world” setting. Unfortunately, the filmmakers of this version of “One Week Friends” fall short in making the story credible in how characters in the movie easily accept her claims of amnesia.
Directed by Gavin Lin and written by Hermes Lu, “One Week Friends” (which takes place in 2011, in an unnamed city in China) is based on the “One Week Friends” franchise from Japan. The franchise began with Matcha Hazuki’s manga series (which was published from 2011 to 2015), and then it was made into director Shôsuke Murakami’s fairly well-received 2017 drama movie of the same name. The concept is the same in this 2022 remake from China, but the Chinese version of “One Week Friends” pours on the schmaltz and hokiness to an almost irritating degree.
In the 2022 Chinese remake of “One Week Friends,” Lin Xiangzhi (played by Jinmai Zhao) is a quiet and intelligent new transfer student at an unnamed high school. She and her classmates are 15 or 16 years old. Someone who notices her right away in class is “nice guy” Xu Youshu (played by Lin Yi), who feels infatuation at first sight when he sees Lin Xiangzhi.
Xu Youshu’s closest pals are classmates Jiang Wu (played by Jiahui Wang) and Song Xiaonan (played by Shen Yue), who are both more mischievous and extroverted than Xu Youshu. Jiang Wu is the type of guy who likes to play pranks. For example, on Lin Xiangzhi’s first day at this school, Jiang Wu playfully throws a medium-sized sports ball at her in class.
Song Xiaonan is outspoken and has a little bit of a “mean girl” side to her. At first, she feels threatened by Lin Xiangzhi because she thinks Lin Xiangzhi is much prettier and will get more attenton from the boys in school, particularly Jiang Wu. Song Xiao has a crush on Jiang Wu, so she misinterprets his ball-throwing prank as his way of showing Lin Xiangzhi that he’s attracted to Lin Xiangzhi. Therefore, Song Xiaonan isn’t very friendly and welcoming to Lin Xiangzhi during Lin Xiangzhi’s first day at school.
Song Xiaonan starts to be friendly to Lin Xiangzhi when she sees that not only is Lin Xiangzhi socially awkward, but also Jiang Wu and Lin Xiangzhi are not romantically interested in each other. However, Xu Youshu is interested in dating Lin Xiangzhi, and he makes it clear to her that he wants to get to know her better. His courtship gets off to an embarrassing start when he offers Lin Xiangzhi a bottle of orange juice and accidentally spills it on her.
Lin Xiangzhi isn’t just shy. She’s purposely anti-social. She repeatedly turns down Xu Youshu and his pals’ invitations to hang out together. They are confused over why she keeps rejecting their attempts to become friends. They also notice that on Mondays, Lin Xiangzhi acts like she doesn’t remember who they are and what they talked about the previous week.
One day, Lin Xiangzhi explains to the three pals that she has an unusual memory condition where she forgets certain things over the weekend, so she doesn’t bother to try to make friends. Lin Xiangzhi claims she has this amnesia as a form of post-traumatic stress disorder for something she doesn’t want to talk about. Lin Xiangzhi doesn’t have the type of memory loss where she forgets basic things about the world or how to physically function. She forgets things about her personal relationships.
Xu Youshu is immediately accepting of this explanation, and he patiently continues to befriend Lin Xiangzhi. Jiang Wu and Song Xiaonan aren’t as understanding, but they eventually warm up to the idea of trying to become close friends to Lin Xiangzhi. Mainly because of Xu Youshu’s persistence, Lin Xiangzhi opens up and begins to spend some of her free time with these three pals.
Eventually, all four of them become good friends, but the friendship becomes strained every time Lin Xiangzhi goes to school on Monday and doesn’t remember who they are. Xu Youshu is beginning to fall in love with Lin Xiangzhi, so he’s willing to start over and try to jog her memories of what they experienced and said together. To help her out, he writes down their experiences, takes photos and videos, and saves mementos.
The foundation of the story is about Lin Xiangzhi’s amnesia, but the movie never convinces audiences that these teenagers, who have access to the Internet, wouldn’t try to find out more about Lin Xiangzhi on the Internet. They just believe everything that she says. Lin Xiangzhi sometimes forgets things that were taught in school, but not enough where her grades suffer, because apparently she takes good notes in class.
Unrealistically, Lin Xiangzhi’s new friends also don’t seem to notice that the adults around them don’t really mention Lin Xiangzhi’s amnesia. It’s another clue that there’s something “off” about Lin Xiangzhi’s story about having memory loss. Anyone with common sense can see that her amnesia story is too far-fetched. Why can’t these supposedly smart teenagers see it?
It also doesn’t ring true that Xu Youshu, who’s supposely falling in love with Lin Xiangzhi and wants to help her, doesn’t seem interested in talking to any of her family members to find out how he can help until much later than is credible. Lin Xiangzhi’s family situation, which is ignored for most of the movie, would be easier to believe if she were an adult and living on her own. But as an underage teenager, Lin Xiangzhi has to be under some kind of adult supervision at home, which is something the movie only addresses late in the story and in a very contrived way.
Until then, “One Week Friends” becomes a tedious repetition of Lin Xiangzhi hanging out with her three new friends, and then the frustration that follows when she forgets all about it the following week. It should come as no surprise that Lin Xiangzhi does have a big secret that’s related to her memory loss. This secret is also mishandled in a very overwrought way that is meant to pull at viewers’ heartstrings but will more likely have some viewers rolling their eyes at the emotional manipulation of it all.
On the positive side, the cast members aren’t terrible in their performances. They seem to be doing the best they can with a very schmaltzy screenplay. The romance between Xu Youshou and Lin Xiangzhi is actually quite sweet, although very predictable. The movie’s cinematography and production design are adequate, while this version of “One Week Friends” could have used better editing to cut out repetitive scenes. Ultimately, “One Week Friends” is a drama that seems to have good intentions, but the tearjerking moments are very unearned and too mushy for their own good.
Far East Films released “One Week Friends” in select U.S. cinemas on July 8, 2022. The movie was released in China on June 18, 2022.