You Are The Apple Of My Eye has spent over 40 days at the box office and is now in 2nd place on Taiwan’s chart of all-time box office hits.  As someone who is pretty unfamiliar with Taiwanese cinema, I was pleasantly surprised by the hilarious nature and cinematic beauty of this 110-minute film. I sat down at the New People Cinema in San Francisco and was introduced to characters that made me smile, laugh, cry and who inspired me to question what real love looks like. I understand why audiences are reacting so strongly to this beautiful and relatable film about a boy and a girl who despite their love for one another cannot for their own voiceless reasons, find a way to admit their feelings, and so they lose grasp over their fate. Or do they?

The best times in a relationship often occur before the relationship ever begins.  Whether you agree with this or not, this seemingly simple yet controversial concept is explored throughout this film and as I was watching You Are The Apple Of My Eye, the directorial debut film by Taiwan novelist-turned-director Giddens, I could not help but wonder whether the most romantic love is the love that never fully comes to fruition. Could it be that the most powerful love is the mysteriously tender love between friends?

At its core, this film is about friendship. The story starts in high school and follows Ko Chen-Tung, who goes by “Ko” and introduces us to his friends, who remind me of the Chinese version of The Lost Boys.  We get to know Ko and his group of testosterone induced male friends throughout high school, college and beyond as they embark on a journey of self-discovery and exploration into manhood. Then there’s the girl. Played by Michelle Chen, Shen Chia Yi is at the center of this tale. A beautiful and smart self proclaimed “nerd”, Chia-Yi is desired by every boy in school but seems to only be concerned with helping Ko become the great student he is too afraid to be. It’s exciting to witness the catalyst that sparked Ko’s journey to becoming a best selling writer. This film is based on Giddens’ semi- autobiographical book The Girl We Chased Together in Those Years and it becomes clear that Giddens and Ko are one in the same. 

This film also explores what it means to be in transition and the complexity of the various emotions and desires that surface. At one point, Ko says to Chia-Yi, “ you look pretty when you cry” and her tears start to flow harder and then her laughter breaks through like the sun that finally shines after a thunderstorm. At the end, you feel content leaving the theater and not because you’ve witnessed a Hollywood ending but because you have witnessing a bumpy ride to a destination filled with humor, truth, just a tad of silliness and a great deal of perspective.

It seems that all Giddens wanted to do, was what his main character said he wanted to do in his life: “ I want to be a kickass person. I want the world to be a bit better because of me.”  After the journey that this film takes you on, it is safe to say that Giddens accomplished his goal and has made the world a better place by creating an immensely powerful, funny and picturesque film that reminds you not to seek rewards from everything you do, but to just do the best you can, laugh a lot and love your friends.

Svetlana Saitsky

This film will be playing at the New People Cimena in San Francisco October 14-16th and opens officially to wider release on November 10, 2011.

Hong Kong International Film Festival Summer International Film Festival
Sales: Star Ritz Productions Co. Ltd.
Production companies: Star Ritz Production Co. Ltd., Sony Music Entertainment Taiwan Ltd. present a Star Ritz production.
Cast: Ko Chen-Tung, Michelle Chen, Steven Hao, Ao-Chuen, Tsai Cheng-Hsien, Yen Sheng-yu, Wan Wan.
Director-screenwriter: Giddens
Managing director: Liao Ming-yi, Chiang Chin-Lin.
Executive producer: Angie Chen.
Director of photography: Chou Yi-Hsien.
Production designer: Shen Chen-Chih.
Costume designer: Hsu Li-Wen.
Music: Jamie Hsueh.
Editor: Liao Ming-Yi.
No rating, 109 minutes