Starring Li Yifeng and Zhang Huiwen. In Mandarin, with English subtitles. Rated PG.
Judging from the recent spate of glossy Chinese flicks aimed at young adults, that country has a disproportionate share of aspiring musicians, dancers, architects, math wizards, and graphic designers. It’s heartening to see this much emphasis on creativity as a life path, but more of these films should follow their own advice and allow the muses to flow.
There’s no lack of skills on the production side of Forever Young, previously titled Gardenia in Blossom, after a hit 2004 song that inspired producer Peng Yu to work almost a decade on developing a story to go with it. The effort does not show. It’s a directorial debut for He Jiong (aka He Teacher), the popular TV personality who recorded that song. His film doesn’t mind pandering to millennials at every turn.
That means the colours are super-saturated, camera angles are rad, and the cast is unfailingly attractive, concentrating on four guys in a local band and four gals aiming to study ballet in Paris.
We know things won’t go well, because our collegiate eight (who never attend classes, apparently) have a romantic slo-mo montage not 10 minutes into the movie, when we hardly know them. The script soon conspires to remove three of them from the story, thus ruining the Parisian plans of obsessive Yan Xi (bland Zhang Huiwen). But it does set in motion an unusual response from Xu Nuo (soulful Li Yifeng), the handsomest, most sensitivest boyfriend a girl ever dreamed up and then took for granted.
The movie’s concept of ballet is limited to Swan Lake, and he decides to talk his three poorly differentiated bandmates into dancing the missing parts for her—in the absent girls’ tutus, which miraculously fit the guys.
You might think the filmmakers would take this opportunity to contemplate changing notions of gender in modern China, but then you’d be thinking too hard. The nostalgically titled film also lards up the plot with a pointless rivalry between Xu Nuo and a better musician (memorable Zhang Yunlong), but this seems mainly a way to randomly work the title tune into an already disjointed effort—one that gets old fast.