Review: ‘Shining for One Thing’ (2023), starring Qu Chu Xiao and Zhang Jianing

January 16, 2024

by Carla Hay

Qu Chu Xiao and Zhang Jianing in “Shining for One Thing” (Photo courtesy of Golden Village Pictures)

“Shining for One Thing” (2023)

Directed by Chen Xiaoming and Zhang Pan

Mandarin with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in China, in 2010, the sci-fi drama film “Shining for One Thing” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A teenage aspiring astronaut hopes to win over a teenage girl whom he has been pining over for years, but she acts aloof and unavailable.

Culture Audience: “Shining for One Thing” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in romantic dramas wth sci-fi elements.

Zhang Jianing and Qu Chu Xiao in “Shining for One Thing” (Photo courtesy of Golden Village Pictures)

“Shining for One Thing” blends sci-fi and romance in this appealing drama about a teenage aspiring astronaut, who pines for a seemingly unattainable girl. Some of the movie’s plot developments are awkward, but it’s a sweet and interesting love story.

Directed by Chen Xiao Ming and Zhang Pan, “Shining for One Thing” is based on the TV series of the same name, which debuted in China in 2022. Duan Yu Le and Wang Chen wrote the movie’s screenplay, which is a stand-alone film. People who know about the “Shining for One Thing” series won’t be surprised by the movie’s plot twist, which won’t be revealed in this review, in case people who see the movie don’t know about the TV series.

“Shining for One Thing” opens with a scene of a male astronaut and a female astronaut on the moon. They are standing across from each other and looking at each other. How they got there is explained in the movie.

The movie then goes to an unnamed city in China on August 8, 2010. A high school student named Zhang Wansen (played by Qu Chu Xiao), who’s about 17 years old, goes to a ticket booth and asks for tickets for a concert, but the ticket seller (played by Wang Zhaoqing) says she just sold the last two tickets to a teenage girl, who is standing nearby. The ticket seller advises Wansen to ask the girl if she will sell him either or both of the tickets.

The teenager who bought the last two tickets is Lin Beixing (played by Zhang Jianing, also known as Karlina Zhang), who’s about the same age as Wansen. She refuses Wansen’s offer to buy the tickets. Wansen sees Beixing again on a school bus, and he’s bashful about approaching her. She mostly acts aloof and unapproachable during most of their interactions.

The concert that Wansen wants to go to is a Moon Shot concert, taking place at a stadium. It will be send-off for an astronaut mission to the moon. Ever since he was a child, Wansen has dreamed about going to the moon. He takes science classes with this aim in mind.

Wansen wants to be part of the Moon Shot concert any way that he can. He volunteers to be a worker helping with production set-up duties at the stadium. Wansen then finds out that Beixing is one of the many other young people who are also volunteers.

Wansen also finds out that Beixing works at a bookstore that’s owned by a kind, elderly man named Xie (played by Tian Zhuangzhuang), so Wansen starts hanging out at the bookstore too. Beixing is very aware that Wansen is attracted to her. Wansen and Beixing get to know each other better, but she still keeps an emotional distance from him.

What Beixing doesn’t seem to remember is that she and Wansen met years earlier, when when they were about 5 or 6 years old and lived near each other. Wansen was a lonely child, and Beixing was the only person who was nice to him. (In these childhood scenes, Eric Zhang portrays Wansen. Yu Qian Qian portrays Beixing.) Just as it seemed like Wansen and Beixing were becoming friends, she told him that she was moving away with her family.

“Shining for One Thing” then shows what happens to Wansen and Beixing as teenagers and as young adults. Other people in their orbit include Wansen’s friend Lin Mai Zi (played by Jiang Yun), who has a crush on an artsy student named Gao Ge (played by Fu Jing, also known as Jinna Fu), who doesn’t seem interested in Lin Mai Zi. There is also some drama involving a local thug named Wu Ren (played by Niu Chao), who’s the leader of a gang of other criminal troublemakers. This movie is competently acted and is best appreciated by viewers who like stories about the personal sacrifices that people make for unconditional love.

Golden Village Pictures released “Shining for One Thing” in China on December 30, 2023. The movie was released in select U.S. cinemas on January 5, 2024.

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