Every now and again, there comes a drama that you just know is going to be your favorite drama of the year. Perhaps you are drawn by the premise, perhaps the actors, perhaps it’s not until the first episode ends, but you just know— This very well may be that drama for me.
In Time With You is being compared to Korean drama 9 End 2 Outs, though a wonderful drama, also about best friends, ITWY is something altogether more. Both dramas a superbly acted and thought provoking but the comparison ceases there. I can’t say the ITWY surpasses 9E20 but I personally believe the dramas are wholly different in purpose, direction and execution.
I will say, however, if you enjoyed 9E2O and enjoy dramas that concentrate on the best friend to lovers contemplation/transition, give ITWY a glance.
[This also marks my first post on a Taiwanese drama!]
The Synopsis: Long-time best friends make a bet about love and marriage.
Episode Lowdown: Today, Chen Yo Qing (Ariel Lin) turns thirty. And honestly, thirty’s not that bad, it’s more that time has gotten away from her. She’s not exactly where she wants to be. Though her career is fine, she’s contemplating a change and definitely trying to find a way to reinvent her love life. Since, high school she’s been opinionated and hard-working, doing her best to get her way as not to be vulnerable to anyone but as she looks back, she wonders what she’s been doing all this time.
Running into an old boyfriend and his new girlfriend, makes her insecure and curious as to what she’s doing wrong in love. This prompts her to ask her best friend why he said he’d never love a girl like her.
Meanwhile, Li Da Ren(Bolin Chen) is thirty as well but his thoughts aren’t as congruent or clustered as his friend, Yo Qing. Instead, he’s just trying to live diligently working as an airline manager– content in many ways, with no desire to rock the boat. However, when Yo Qing dials him up and reminds him of a comment he made over 14 years ago, it forces him to remember why he made it. For her birthday, to console her restlessness, her surprises her. They get together to celebrate her day and end up making a bet: whomever marries first in five years will get paid NT 100,000.
With the bet fresh in the air Yo Qing and Da Ren meet potential mates, both new employees to their respective companies. Yo Qing is immediately attracted to her new assistant Nic but is hesitant about their age difference and his ambiguous attentions towards her. Meanwhile, Da Ren is beating his new employee, Maggie (Jassie Chen) off with a stick. She’s young and beautiful but quite pushy with her intentions which leaves Da Ren more indecisive and confused than ever before. But when Yo Qing makes her decision to pursue Nic on a quick business trip, Da Ren follows suit and shows up at Maggie’s ready to start a new relationship with her. Unfortunately, things haven’t panned out as well as Yo Qing had hoped and she calls Da Ren in tears from her hotel room. For hours, she relieves her stress over the phone until there’s a knock at the door… it’s Da Ren.
The Title: There are a couple titles and translations of this drama and I for one like them both. They work for the story and it’s overall theme. They also help you form a graph for the progression of the story that I think is also nice. The translated title, “I might not love you,” comes from an actual statement in the drama that was directed towards Yo Qing. What is intriguing is that those words could apply to both characters, not just Yo Qing, also the statement says more about the person that said it, than it does about the person who took it to heart.
“In Time With You” is the English title, which I love even more than the translated. For “time” constitutes several things and this drama addresses more than a few. “Time” refers to the passing of minutes, days, months and years (tangible), but also moments of joy, loneliness, confusion and contemplation(intangible). The idea is romantic, beautiful and whimsical– withstanding the passage of time. The fascinating thing is, the actual drama isn’t very romantic or whimsical. Instead, it’s very practical, purposed and paced, almost as a reflection of authentic Time.
The title also speaks to “timing” as well as being in “step” with one another. The last two are similar and perhaps build on one another. “Timing” usually evokes one moment or one chance whereas “step” evokes progression, which is numerous in nature. I can’t predict the ways in which the drama will translate it’s meaning of “time” but it seems that all three instances will come in to play. (Yo Qing’s father even gives throws out the adage, “Timing is everything.”) Anyone who can look back on their lives, can say that certain joys or woes wouldn’t have been as appreciated or effective if experienced at a different time, and I definitely believe that ITWY will address this idea.
In the general sense, this couple spends alot of time and “times” together, whether it’s the fourteen year duration of their friendship or the late night dinners and random phone calls. Also it seems as though their overall “time” together is beginning to change or may come to an end. For they are both in a “time” in their lives where they are moving in directions that will separate them, whether it’s professionally or personally.
My personal favorite expression of “time” for this drama, however, is thinking of time as being in “step” or on course with one another. For all relationships, can span time, involve happy times, and the timing might hit the mark, but if you aren’t in step (or time) with one another, the relationship won’t last.
Love is like a dance or a musical piece. It can be passionate, sultry, sombre, abrasive, playful and tense. However, with dance or music, it must be cohesive— Love is no different. Two people in a relationship must gel and flow together in order to be successful. I see this drama as a wonderful depiction of that sentiment.
Lastly, the passage of “TIME” is personified within the series as also hovering (chasing) persistently around the main character, Yo Qing. She’s trying to reconcile herself to the time in which she lives, e.g. her age. I don’t believe that she is uneasy about her numeric status or yearly progression but more what those years should reflect and they don’t. Everyone has notions in their minds as to where certain milestones should be achieved and when you don’t hit them consciously, there is a subconscious uneasiness. Her battle with time is a solitary one, though I do believe her relationship with Da Ren will ultimately help her reconcile herself to the time that has past her, as well as how well she’s spent her time. I’m not convinced (as of now) that Da Ren relates to time in the same way that Yo Qing does (men usually don’t) but I do believe his personal battle with time delves more in his personality quirks over time (eg. Has he changed since high school, etc.?).
The Characters: One thing that I’ve noticed in my tiny time as a Taiwanese drama viewer, is that there are definitely more characters to be introduced. At this point, we’ve met the best friends, a clingy new girlfriend, a potential boyfriend and the main characters’ immediate families. However, there have also been illusions to other ex-lovers that very well may (mostly likely will) make an appearance. Therefore, the characters of the drama will continue to grow but the main characters are the most important and will remain constant. For this drama is entirely about them, no matter how many people come and go.
Yo Qing is a hard working woman who is very guarded(emotionally). She’s afraid to be too emotional, too needy, too open. She’s a character I can personally identify with. She isn’t very “nice” or “gentle” at first glance but she’s a caring, loyal, consistent person and friend. She’s a woman who knows herself about as well as most women and yet she’s constantly learning (albeit, reluctantly at times). She’s a female lead that feels real because she seems rather normal. She actually asks herself the right questions and doesn’t make petty assumptions. She isn’t extraordinary or great but unlike the title suggests, it’s definitely possible for someone to love her. She isn’t as prickly as she seems and whether she really “let’s someone in” or not, a man with a goal could definitely find her, love her and win her.
I find Da Ren very interesting because he’s not the typical male hero. Like Yo Qing, he’s very ordinary and if he weren’t such a good friend to Yo Qing, you’d probably forget he exists. That sounds like an insult, but it isn’t, even if it isn’t a straightforward compliment. His love for Yo Qing is so decidedly unconditional, it amazes me, but not in a dreamy or heart-palpitatingly wonderful way. Da Ren is steady, calm and genuine; encouraging, funny and smart. He’s good at his job, but he doesn’t seem to have many goals, nor is he as forthright as perhaps he should be. He’s insecure but more on the side of being concerned over rejection, which makes him acceptably flawed. He’s not a coward, just overly cautious, which causes him to lose out on opportunities. Ultimately he’s a great guy to have as a best friend because he isn’t exceedingly attractive, or cocky, nor is he effeminate and greasy. He’s a man, that gives a male opinion but also an equal that you can walk through life with.
When Maggie starts her job at the airline, it’s immediately apparent that she likes Da Ren and initially this was fine. But by episode 2 it was obvious she was not my cup of tea. As a twenty-five year she brings shame upon all women everywhere for being so needy and childish (in speech and behavior). She is a second lead that is annoying and disgraceful because it misrepresents women with backbone, pride and other goals outside becoming a wife. Though she may be a nice girl, everything she does gets under my skin. She acts twelve and it’s beyond me why such a character has to litter such a wonderful drama.
I suppose, her characterization stems from the idea that men are drawn to women who are damsels, for they like to feel needed. Unfortunately, for women who aren’t damsels, it diminishes the positives in a man who gets caught up with such a female. It affronts the fact that women can and like to be equals or at least treated as friends and colleagues without begging for a savior or benefactor. Her character also perpetuates the view that all women have ulterior motives concerning dating, relationships and men. That women are manipulative and cunning. She’s a blood-sucker but in the way that I see her absorbing the life-force from a man, not empowering herself from deep connection with him.
I purposely haven’t seen beyond episode 3, as not to cloud my judgement for this post, therefore, I haven’t been introduced to this character properly. But from what I’ve read and seen, he’s an ex-boyfriend of Yo Qing who wasn’t faithful. Her relationship with him shaped her in many ways concerning love and also dampened her relationship with Da Ren.
However, he will make a comeback, declaring his love and devotion to Yo Qing, which I’m sure will stir up past grievances as well as jump-start Da Ren in gear regarding his feelings for Yo Qing.
Overall Character Thoughts: Yo Qing and Da Ren are products of their environment; Yo Qing, the youngest of three children, and Da Ren, the only male in a female dominated household. Their characterizations are heavily reliant on whom they were born to, how they were raised and their lives growing up. Yo Qing had a loving family but being last in line, she learned to fend for herself, wanting to make her own mark, while Da Ren having a sickly father, then losing him, catered to his mother and sister by going with the flow and remaining passive. These facts have shaped them as individuals (regarding relationships, work, etc) and is subsequently reflected in their dynamics of interaction as high school classmates until now as adults being close friends.
In my opinion, Yo Qing and Da Ren have a typical opposite sex friendship, in the way that, neither has truly ever not been romantically attracted to the other. Their separation comes from a flippant statement that has wedged itself between, and rightfully so. I won’t say that I agree with the “way” that the “I won’t love you” comment has shaped them, but I think it’s origin is understandable and therefore easy to accept.
Da Ren was a kid that wanted to console a classmate (a person he was attracted to), and in order to make her feel comfortable, he makes an off-the-cuff comment, that he wishes were true. He didn’t want to like a girl like Yo Qing because in high school we all like to save face and play it safe. Acceptance is paramount when you’re young, therefore no one likes draw unwarranted attention and Da Ren is also an extremely easy going type of guy. Unfortunately, his “reassurance” turns into an affront, initially and later a cushion(in college), and now a crutch. Da Ren is also painfully aware that his words have become a romantic wall between he and Yo Qing– and for much longer than he imagined. He has spent their friendship liking her more and more but never able to take the leap because that one line has become a sort of backwards promise never to see her romantically and he, being the sweet (but scaredy-cat) guy he is, tries to abide within that territory.
Yo Qing also does the same because, though on the outside she’s gruff and persnickety, she’s not made of steel. When Da Ren said what he said, it pricked her and that scar has traveled within her for years. It’s interesting that at the beginning of the drama, she remembers what he said and asks for an explanation because it’s apparent it has never left her. I don’t think that it was just a comment that hurt but that it made an impression because of whom it came from. She trusts Da Ren and his opinion, (and in her mind) he’s also a pretty decent person himself, so what is wrong with her? Though what she feels is an affirmation of his feelings, may twinge her a bit, it also comforts her now, because there is a freedom between them. She can be herself and never have to deal with him “falling in love her.” However, again, even she isn’t devoid of romantic emotion toward him, but because the line’s been drawn, because it’s never honestly been addressed again, she can sweep her tangled emotions under the carpet and look at his thoughts (words) as a divide that will never be crossed.
Also, it seems to me, that ITWY has second lead characters, not to bring the couple together or to keep them apart(like most dramas) but to address the weaknesses and strengths within each characters’ personality. The third-wheels in this drama aren’t used as a vehicle of destruction but rather construction. Yo Qing and Da Ren are characters that live separate lives and are wonderful individuals on their own. They aren’t “soul-mates” in the Plato sense, therefore they can and will function in life whether they end up together or not.
Though it’s easy to see that Yo Qing and Da Ren are better “suited” for one another, the drama, nor their relationship necessitates it. Maggie and Ling Wei serve as forces that demand Da Ren and Yo Qing to make concrete, rational, heartfelt choices in life. Their relationships move them forward in better understanding themselves, more so than drawing to one another. Da Ren and Yo Qing are as linked as two people can be, therefore, their status as friends has very little to do with other people. As they create bonds with other partners, hopefully, those choices lead to one another but ultimately, their journey is more about who they want to be and where they want to go. I’m just thankful that rational thought will lead them to also ponder, whom they want by their side as they accomplish their goals.
Thoughts: ITWY is my first Ariel Lin drama (that I will watch in it’s entirety) and most likely my last but I don’t feel deprived at all. This drama proves she deserves all the accolades she’s acquired over the years. Best friend stories are my guilty pleasure because it’s one of those things that we all know should be the basis for any good long-lasting relationship. However, it’s also innocuous because it’s as we watch characters, we wonder what has taken them so long to get together. But oddly, ITWY doesn’t give me that vibe. Though I believe the statement or ideal has merit, this drama doesn’t have me twiddling my thumbs in anticipation or annoyance at the couple’s distance romantically. Unlike most best friend romances, ITWY isn’t about these two people finally getting it right and realizing they belong together. For, these characters don’t “have” to do that. Like I’ve said, their love story is more about what and whom they really want. Honestly, ITWY is this drama that is so hard to describe yet simple to understand, in that, it’s clearly about two people that love one another but it’s neither completely platonic, nor romantic and unfortunately, this truth complicates everything. The drama isn’t about will they get together but how, not because they don’t want to but because there’s no concrete reason they need or have to.
When I finished the first episode, I wasn’t sure what to say about it. For it feels like a movie, in drama form. Each episode builds and shares another aspect of the story, as drama’s should, but there is still a rich ambiguity in the execution that leaves it feeling like more than just your average drama. From acting, to writing, to directing, this drama is the cream. The characters speak intelligently and have real conversations about things that actually matter. Though I don’t speak Mandarin or any form of it, I can tell immediately that the dialogue between characters is sophisticated and poignant, and I’m sure the majority gets lost in translation.
ITWY is not for a viewer that doesn’t want to think or enter a pensive mode with these characters, nor do I feel that the “happy” endings of most dramas will apply to this one. The rawness of this drama compels me to take it seriously and think of these characters as real, flawed humans, grappling to put the pieces of life and it’s influence on love into perspective.
So far, I’ve pondered more than one scene, grateful to have met this drama. In episode two, the characters sit in on a play that is meant to be a mirror depiction of the tangled emotions of friendship, love and miscommunication that this drama represents. The story of those two individuals ends tragically, with a multitude of regrets but it boldly and uninhibitedly portrays love and companionship– That play, is this drama.