Review: ‘Yesterday Once More’ (2023), starring Chen Feiyu and Zhou Ye

May 16, 2023

by Carla Hay

Chen Feiyu (also known as Arthur Chen) and Zhou Ye in “Yesterday Once More” (Photo courtesy of Wanda Pictures)

“Yesterday Once More” (2023)

Directed by Lin Hsiao Chien (also known as Gavin Lin)

Mandarin with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in China, the dramatic film “Yesterday Once More” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A toy designer reunites with a female friend from his childhood, and they fall in love, but when she dies in an accident, he has a choice on whether or not to go back in time and prevent her death.

Culture Audience: “Yesterday Once More” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching sentimental but well-acted romantic dramas with a sci-fi twist.

Zhou Ye and Chen Feiyu (also known as Arthur Chen) in “Yesterday Once More” (Photo courtesy of Wanda Pictures)

“Yesterday Once More” is a time-travel love story that gets a little too convoluted in order to cover up some possible plot holes. However, the performances in this drama are engaging. The movie also gives a worthwhile look at fate versus freedom of choice.

Directed by Lin Hsiao Chien (also known as Gavin Lin) and written by Xu Yi, “Yesterday Once More” is the type of earnest romantic drama that will appeal to viewers who believe in soul mates and who believe that love transcends time. It’s the type of movie that has some science-fiction elements. Therefore, suspension of disbelief is required for a great deal of the story.

“Yesterday Once More” (which takes place in unnamed cities in China) begins with the movie’s adult narrator Gu Yuxuan (played by Chen Feiyu, also known as Arthur Chen) saying, “If you had a chance to go back in time, what would you do?” The scene then shows Yuxuan at about 7 or 8 years old (played by Fu Bohan) by himself in a garden. A girl who’s about he same age as Yuxuan approaches him in a friendly manner.

Her name is Han Shuyan (played by Luo Yichun), who will end up changing Yuxuan’s life. Yuxuan tells Shuyan that today is his birthday. Shuyan says, “Let me celebrate with you.” Yuxuan and Shuyan become fast friends that day, as they frolic around the garden. They both find out that they like stuffed animal toys and are fascinated with time travel.

But the developing friendship between these two children is short-lived. After this first meeting, Yuxuan finds out that Shuyan, who lived nearby, suddenly moved away with her family. Yuxuan is emotionally crushed, because he’s a lonely child who lives in fear of his abusive, alcoholic father (played by Yang Zihua), a widower who uses alcohol as a way to cope with his grief. Yuxuan’s mother (played by Sui Jin, shown briefly in a flashback scene) died of an unnamed terminal illness. When Yuxuan was a child, his mother made birthday candles for him.

“Yesterday Once More” then fast-forwards about 15 years later. Now in his early 20s, Yuxuan is a toy designer who is happy in his career, but he has been unlucky in love, since he hasn’t found anyone who has captured his heart in the way that Shuyan did on his birthday all those years ago. As fate would have it, Yuxuan will see Shuyan again.

It happens at the wedding of Yuxuan’s best friend/co-worker Teddy (played by Sun Tianyu), who has asked Yuxuan to be the best man at the wedding. Teddy is getting married to a gorgeous social media influencer named Olivia (played by Zhao Xiaotang), who has 10 million followers on social media. Olivia and Teddy’s relationship is a case of “opposites attract,” since she is very high-maintenance and image-conscious, while Teddy is more laid-back and unpretentious.

Before the wedding ceremony starts at a banquet hall, Olivia is frantic about a problem with the wedding cake, because part of the cake has collapsed. Yuxuan goes back in the kitchen and sees a friend of Olivia’s skillfully working on fixing the cake. He joins in to help too,. And then, it dawns on Yuxuan that the woman he is working with is Shuyan (played by Zhou Ye), the long-lost “instant friend” from his childhood.

However, Shuyan doesn’t recognize Yuxan, and he’s too shy to say anything to her to remind her of their first meeting. The wedding cake get fixed. Olivia and Teddy’s lavish wedding ceremony happens without any further mishaps. At the wedding reception, Yuxan and Shuyan are seated at the same table. Yuxan is still too bashful to say anything to her or to ask for her contact information, but he steals glances at her and finds out that his feelings for Shuyan have not changed.

Yuxuan thinks he will probably never see Shuyan again. But one day, he sees her again on a bus. This time, Yuxuan decides he’s going to remind Shuyan how they met. First, he strikes up a conversation with her, because he knows she will remember him from the wedding. And then, Yuxuan gives a toy to Shuyan that he designed himself: a Time Machine Cat. And that’s how Shuyan remembers that she and Yuxuan met in their childhood on his birthday.

Shuyan and Yuxuan begin dating, fall in love, and move in together. Their relationship is serious enough where Yuxuan wants to propose marriage to Shuyan. The only problems in their relationship are some family-related issues and money troubles. Shuyan’s unnamed mother (played by Juan Zi) doesn’t approve of Shuyan’s goal to open her own bakery because she doesn’t think it’s a stable or well-paying career choice. Shuyan’s father (played by Liu Penggang) is more supportive of his daughter’s bakery dreams.

Yuxuan’s father has died and left behind large debts owed to a local thug, who threatens Yuxuan to pay back the money. Yuxuan doesn’t want to burden Shuyan with this information, so he doesn’t tell her. He also promised to help her open a bakery. As a result, his financial problems become more complicated.

However, the burden of keeping this secret, as well as Yuxuan’s grief over his father’s death, cause a strain on the relationship between Yuxuan and Shuyan. Meanwhile, Teddy and Olivia are having marital problems because she gets jealous of him spending time with another woman, and Olivia is suspicious that Teddy has been cheating on her. Teddy and Olivia separate. It looks like Olivia and Teddy could be headed for a divorce.

Teddy notices that Yuxuan is distressed over personal problems, so he recommends that Yuxuan visit an elderly book author (played by Yue Yueli), who wrote a children’s book called “Yesterday Once More.” Teddy says that this author is known to be very wise and could possibly be a psychic. Yuxuan reads “Yesterday Once More” and notices that the book doesn’t seem to have a definitive ending. The author tells Yuxuan: “Maybe what will happen was destined earlier.”

It’s already revealed in the trailer for “Yesterday Once More” that Shuyan gets killed in an accident. It happens on December 31, 2022. The movie then becomes about Yuxuan trying to prevent this accident with things that involve what the mysterious book author told him and the birthday candles that Yuxuan’s mother gave to him. There’s also a female counterpart (played by Wu Xuxu) to the book author, and she also plays a pivotal role in the story.

“Yesterday Once More” isn’t overly saccharine. It offers bittersweet observations about how childhoods can affect the way that people handle romantic relationships when they’re old enough to have these relationships. Like many children of alcoholics/addicts, Yuxuan has a pattern of keeping shameful secrets at all costs, even if it can possibly destroy the most relationship in his life. Shuyan also has to deal with self-esteem issues because of the turbulent relationship that she has with her domineering mother that goes all the way back to Shuyan’s childhood.

The movie doesn’t portray having a “soul mate” romance as the answer to life’s problems. Instead, “Yesterday Once More” admirably shows that the right relationships are meant to help people better cope with problems rather than magically make those problems disappear. Chen and Zhou are absolutely charming in their portrayals of soul mates Yuxuan and Shuyan. Some viewers might not like some of the twists and turns in the movie, but people who are fans of stories about time travel and romance will find a lot to like about “Yesterday Once More.”

Wanda Pictures released “Yesterday Once More” in select U.S. cinemas on May 5, 2023, The movie was released in Singapore on May 11, 2023.

Review: ‘One Week Friends’ (2022), starring Jinmai Zhao, Lin Yi, Shen Yue and Jiahui Wang

August 6, 2022

by Carla Hay

Jinmai Zhao, Lin Yi, Shen Yue and Jiahui Wang in “One Week Friends” (Photo courtesy of Tiger Pictures Entertainment)

“One Week Friends” (2022)

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.

Jinmai Zhao and Lin Yi in “One Week Friends” (Photo courtesy of Tiger Pictures Entertainment)

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.

Tiger Pictures Entertainment released “One Week Friends” in select U.S. cinemas on July 8, 2022. The movie was released in China on June 18, 2022.

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