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December 14, 2021

Ever Since We Love


Wan Wu Shengzhang
Li Yu - 2015
Cheng Cheng Films

Ever Since We Love might benefit from a superimposed title indicating that the film takes place in the 1990s. Not that everything would be explained, but it would provide an immediate context as to when the story takes place. To summarize, this is mostly a look at mainland China when there was greater social mobility emerging with an emphasis on material success.

Unlike her previous films, Li Yu has adapted a novel that is told from the point of view of a male medical student, Qui Shui. He is one of a quartet of students who seem intent on prolonging adolescence as long as possible, getting drunk, pulling pranks and hoping to get by just enough to get a degree. The film opens with a large vat of skulls accidentally kicked with enough force to cause glass to shatter into tiny pieces and skulls to fly around the classroom. Initially, the film would appear to be a comedy about sexually frustrated young men, hovering somewhere between Porky's and Animal House. After several comic scenes, the more serious intentions become clearer.

Maybe not the most original of themes, and one probably taken from the novel, is the fragility of relationships with the fragility of the human body. There are two false alarms of unplanned pregnancies followed by a scene with a woman dead from ovarian cancer. That the deceased woman was an early love of Qui causes him to rethink his goal of becoming a doctor. Qui's lack of responsibility gets in the way of his concurrent relationships with two women, fellow student Bai Lu, and a medical supply saleswoman, Liu Qing. The original Mandarin title translates as "Everything Grows", and the film concludes with the fates of the main characters following departure from medical school.

Fan Bingbing is the nominal star here as Liu Qing, at least the best known member of the cast, the older woman who has an uneasy friendship turned romance with Qui. Former boy band singer Gang Han carries most of the film as Qui in what has been noted as his first serious acting role. As he has done before, Jian Zeng does double duty as both cinematographer and editor. Whether it is long traveling shots following Fan Bingbing, or abstract shots of the branches of bare trees, there is a constant sense of visual elegance. The film has also been noted for its depiction of sexuality, essentially pushing the limits as to what was at the time permissible in a mainland Chinese production. While not as personal a project as Buddha Mountain or Lost in Beijing, Li Yu has adapted a novel by a male author to partially comment on the limits of female agency in China.

Ever Sine We Love is available both on DVD and on streaming platforms.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 14, 2021 05:56 AM