Fall in Love at First Kiss (Yi Wen Ding Qing in Mandarin), directed by Yu Shan Chen, is a charming romantic comedy about a ditzy and dedicated high school student named Yuan Xiang-Qin who sets her sights on Jiang Zhi-Shu (the most intelligent and popular boy in her school). (DLH: 3.5/5)
Review by FF2 Intern Dayna Hagewood
In the first few scenes of Yu Shan Chen’s Fall in Love at First Kiss, we are introduced to the absurdity of contemporary China’s high school ranking system through the eyes of Xiang-Qin (Yun Lin). It is extremely apparent that her school is separated by economic as well as intelligence rankings, and the F class that Xiang-Qin is in is treated very poorly by the A class that her crush, Zhi-Shu, is in. Xiang-Qin decides to take a risk considering she is graduating soon and vows to confess her love to Zhi-Shu (Talu Wang) who is the most popular, intelligent, and attractive student in class A.
Her loyal friends orchestrate a fake fire drill so that Xiang-Qin can run into the A class building and deliver a love note to Zhi-Shu, but he rejects her, saying he doesn’t like brainless girls. The whole school immediately crowds around to make fun of Xiang-Qin, but Zhi-Shu’s rejection doesn’t seem to stick with her for long.
Xiang-Qin proves in scene after scene that she won’t give up on her dream of being with the boy that she loves, and this is Fall in Love at First Kiss’s most enjoyable quality. Even though Xiang-Qin isn’t the smartest or prettiest girl in her school (not to mention far from the wealthiest), her dedication and drive to achieve what she wants rises above everything else (even if her main goal is “unimportantly” romantic).
When the house Xiang-Qin shares with her widowed father suddenly collapses from a comically localized earthquake, her father arranges a temporary move into the home of an old friend. Naturally, it turns out that the wealthy family friend is the father of Zhi-Shu.
Even though Zhi-Shu immediately orders Xiang-Qin to pretend at school that she doesn’t know him, he ends up coaching her after school and, to everyone’s surprise, she achieves her goal of coming in the top 100 for an important school exam, proving that the classes are equal. Despite blackmail and lots of comic bickering, the two develop an interesting relationship that constantly teeters back and forth between romance and rivalry.
Suffice it to say that even with a Rom Com plot at the forefront of Fall in Love at First Kiss, filmmaker Yu Shan Chen manages to include a slew of important cultural conflicts and challenges. Zhi-Shu is constantly pressured to take over his father’s company regardless of his personal desires. Meanwhile, Xiang-Qin grapples with her love for Zhi-Shu despite their obvious income gap.
Both characters are caught in unfortunate situations and are forced to confront their future options. Even though Xiang-Qin often appears to be ditzy and unmotivated, she truly comes to her own and learns to roll with the punches throughout the course of the film. Even though it may seem that Xiang-Qin’s main conflict—being in love—may seem trivial, her character development and constant resilience ends up being a major source of the film’s strength.
While it is true that the set up of Fall in Love at First Kiss is both unrealistic and outrageous at points (even retaining vague Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World qualities in terms of scene transitions), filmmaker Yu Shan Chen does a wonderful job of keeping the film entertaining, sweet, and poignant. Tackling societal roles, romance, and family pressures, Fall in Love at First Kiss ends up chronicling the sweet unlikely relationship that can grow out of intense difference.
© Dayna Hagewood (2/23/2019) FF2 Media
Featured Photo: Xiang-Qin played by Yun Lin.
Top Photo: Xiang-Qin and Zhi-Shu riding a bike to school.
Middle Photo: Xiang-Qin presenting her love note.
Bottom Photo: Xiang-Qin and Zhi-Shu studying together.
Photo Credits: Fall in Love at First Kiss Facebook page.
Does Fall In Love at First Kiss pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?
Yes. Zhi-Shu’s mother speaks with Xiang-Qin about always wanting a daughter.