I’ve been wanting to watch this cdrama for a while now, but I finally pushed it up the list and finished it 🙂 Jin Dong, together with a whole group of experienced casts, what’s not to love? And I must say that I’m sooo glad I placed my priorities well – frankly I didn’t expect myself to like it, but the moment you get into it you kind of see the thought they put into producing this through the scenes, lines and lyrics. Overall, I feel that a group of inexperienced actors wouldn’t have been able to pull this off; kudos to the casting director for this because they are just so good. Wow. All of them gave impressive performances which made them feel like real human beings and not mere characters.
Personally, I think characterisations are really important especially for a typical modern family cdrama like this. Otherwise, these people could easily become boring, one-dimensional characters. But hey, I am so blown away by the various personas this drama revolves around – He Han, Tang Jing and Luo Zi Jun (even other minor characters which I will bring up later on). There is so much to learn from them, even in this fictional world.
He Han 贺涵: on the surface he is a rich, successful businessman driving a BMW (and if I may add, handsome 😉 ) but he also has his shortcomings. No doubt he is knowledgeable, but he also thinks that nothing is beyond him. Which may potentially be read as confidence, but at the same time is just arrogant jerk behaviour with zero regard for others’ feelings. Through it all, he turns out to be a dynamic and very compelling as a character though. This can be seen in the way he treats his friends: what he says and does, also the look in his eyes tell you he’s a keeper. [No wonder everyone fell for him ❤ ]
By the way, He Han’s wardrobe is fantastic; and I think half of the clothes belong to Jin Dong 靳东 himself because I’ve seen him wear some of it at airports hah. All I can say is, we’re so blessed 🙂
Tang Jing 唐晶: I think she is unique and 袁泉 Yuan Quan manages to bring out the alluring qualities of Tang Jing. Finally making a name for herself in the male-dominated business world, she has an aura around her that captivates others and even the people close to her: namely Zi Jun and He Han. I really admire her confidence and independence at work, and also in general – all of which she trained for and achieved with her own efforts. Beneath this success, Tang Jing has her own insecurities though. It shows in her thoughts, especially with regard to her relationship with He Han. Third parties and outsiders aside, she is just another human being subjected to vulnerabilities. Which is certainly understandable – and Yuan Quan nails it all. The tears that glisten in her eyes, her speech and expressions just make me feel like I know her better and better each time.
Zi Jun 罗子君: Honestly her rich taitai (full-time housewife, shopping and enjoying life) act really annoyed me LOL. I guess this means 马伊琍 Ma Yi Li really pulled it off – which also explains why she and He Han could not stand each other at the beginning. But the changes she goes through and growth she experiences over the drama makes her admirable and eventually likeable as well as relatable. I appreciated the voiceovers, which cued me in to a lot of her thoughts and mindset. And I also liked that after we slowly got to know about her, there weren’t that many voiceovers anymore which I really appreciate since it became more of showing, instead of just telling. I admit she wasn’t that relatable until the various phases in her life post-divorce, and the difficulties she faced which then made her seem like someone in our midst, just trying to survive and make ends meet.
Chen Jun Sheng 陈俊生: At first glance, he is a top-class jerk who had an extramarital affair which led to him divorcing his wife. However, he has his strengths which you see in his diligence at his job and his later interactions with Zi Jun. Further down the road, we discover more good points about him as we witness the struggles within himself – I think he’s an indecisive softie, and 雷佳音 Lei Jia Yin’s portrayal makes Jun Sheng pretty adorable. This brings me back to the point of how the characters all have humane qualities, flawed but engaging. While “scolding” Jun Sheng in my head, I found myself feeling for him too in the end, which is a really amazing thing.
Anyway, just thought that I should share this behind-the-scenes bit with you all: Lei Jia Yin said in an interview that he initially agreed to starring in this after seeing the cast list, but after reading 5 episodes of the script he rejected the role 😆 Eventually he was convinced by the team, and he also added that Mr. Chen Dao Ming 陈道明, who plays Lao Zhuo (the owner of the restaurant our characters hang out at) had said that he would surely play this role had he been 20 years younger. This is also Lei Jia Yin’s most personally satisfying work to date, according to him.
Worth a mention: Madam Wu 吴大娘 (Wu Jun Mei)
A character who appears later on after Zi Jun manages to get some foothold on her career prospects; despite the short appearance we see what a good superior she is at the company Zi Jun works in – she doesn’t care what people think and is good at her job. We also see how true a friend she is to Zi Jun, giving her advice and helping out a lot. I aspire to be like her. 🙂
There were many instances when the lines in this show struck me and the story had inspiring points but I’ll only a mention a few (avoid if you don’t want spoilers!) I’ll write out both the original statements and roughly translated lines.
“我这个人不太容易相信别人，缺乏安全感” – 老卓
“I don’t trust people that easily, it’s the lack of a sense of security.” – Lao Zhuo
There’s nothing special about this line, but when Lao Zhuo says this to He Han it not only speaks of his own personality, it can be thought of in context with He Han’s and Tang Jing’s relationship. It hints at the issues between them, even if it was just a general statement. And Lao Zhuo says things so matter-of-factly, which is what I like about his character.
Zi Jun’s journey of growth – reminds me of a line from Coldplay’s Fix You: ‘but if you never try you’ll never know’, she never knew she could survive in the workplace. Life pushed her to step out of her comfort zone, and try to maximize her capabilities and potential which she eventually did and watching her I just felt like a proud mum. :’)
“我和贺涵是飞鸟与鱼的距离和分别” – 子君
Zi Jun says that she and He Han are worlds apart, just like that of a flying bird and fish. This is reminiscent of mandarin pop song 珊瑚海 (Coral Sea) by Jay Chou, where one of the lines go: ‘海鸟跟鱼相爱，只是一场意外’. It reads: a seagull and fish falling in love is only an accident, which I think aptly reflects the romantic feelings He Han and Zi Jun began to develop for each other since neither of them had expected this at all. Furthermore, when Zi Jun thinks of her relationship with He Han, she is so self-aware and does not overstep the boundaries she set for herself. He Han too. That is why this pairing breaks your heart and fills it, all at the same time.
If there’s anyone I ship in this drama, it would be Tang Jing + Zi Jun as well as He Han + Jun Sheng. The relationships in the show are so precious its actually hard to pick just one.
The two ladies’ longtime friendship is GOALS: from the heart-to-heart talks, selflessly helping each other and giving to the best of their abilities. Even when they later drift apart, you realise that we’ve come one full circle because the friendship still matters a lot, to both. And this kind of sisterhood is what will withstand the test of time, distance and everything. It also makes me believe that in the future, beyond the closure of this drama their friendship will still go strong, or perhaps be even stronger than ever.
As for He Han and Jun Sheng, the kind of bond they forged after getting to know each other is so worth mentioning. Actually, there aren’t that many bro-mantic moments but through their work interactions and drinks after work, you find that they’d actually came to know each other so well. Jun Sheng trusts and respects He Han, not only as his boss but also a friend. The same goes for He Han, although he may not be as straightforward about it.
About Tang Jing and He Han, I believe that above it all, they’d truly loved each other in the 10 years they were together. However, there were bigger things between them. To both parties, the other would always hold an important place in their hearts. After all, it’s been 10 years. Maybe they weren’t meant to be lovers, but the feelings they shared are definitely not something to be easily wiped off. Regardless of how things turned out, this friendship is golden. And for the record, Jin Dong and Yuan Quan make this pairing so engaging and appealing. On a not-so-related note: people always say that a man and woman can never be just friends, but I personally believe that platonic friendships exist. Beyond the ending, I still think that He Han and Tang Jing would make great friends.
- What I learnt
Love can be expressed in many ways. It doesn’t have to be romantic, or in the form of physical affection. Through Jun Sheng’s and Zi Jun’s conversations after their divorce, we see that they still hold each other in high regard. The negative emotions that had initially surrounded their relationship gradually disappeared, and they continue to show care and concern for one another, as well as love and care for their son, Ping’er all the same.
The happiness of a family is not defined by its completeness, or peace and quiet. Family is a huge component in this show – it brings up various issues that occur in a modern Chinese family. We cannot cut off family members on a whim, for the obvious reason that we’re a family. Zi Jun’s younger sister, Zi Qun (Zhang Ling Xin) lives a difficult life with her unemployed husband Bai Guang (Luan Yuan Hui) but despite all the arguments they live with it. There is barely any peace in the Luo family when you first meet them; they quarrel about every little thing and in this equation, there is a very prominent figure, and that’s Xue Zhen Zhu (Xu Di), the mother of two daughters. She’s like your typical mother-in-law figure, quite irritating off the bat. But I could understand where she was coming from and why she acts a certain way. I think many can empathize with her character, in how practical she is towards life and straightforward remarks which can sound rather unpleasant. And in spite of everything, the Luos remain a closely knitted family which is so heartwarming.
Friendship can be a really amazing and fascinating thing – I was often in awe of how friendships between individuals can be so unconditional, supportive and boundless. There were a few times tears actually welled up in my eyes because I had already become so invested in the show (which I never even realised), it’s like I genuinely wanted all of them to find happiness in life and for things to be better. Moreover, I technically had known the direction where the show was going but still found myself overcome with emotion as I watched the story unfold on my screen.
There are still some gripes I have about the drama, and the first one would be the amount of coincidences – there were way too many, making the show rather unrealistic at some points. Since our drama world is pretty small, I can let it pass; overall it still stays very true to real life.
Not everyone can meet someone who can change their life or guide them to a better future. Yes, it is still up to the individual’s willpower and determination but having someone by one’s side can make a huge difference. For instance, what are the chances that one would meet someone like Madam Wu or He Han?
- Other rambles
The First Half of My Life taught me a lot – I didn’t know a drama with such simple synopsis could be this thought-provoking; I now know why it’s so widely talked about in China. Then again, this show isn’t for everyone – if you’re looking for a steamy hot romance/something filled with youthful heart fluttering moments you’d be disappointed. Plus, it isn’t easy to get invested if you have no interest in the storyline/fave starring. It’s also quite subjective – a lot of things depend on how you see it. One thing for sure though, the takeaways are endless. I also appreciate the fact that The First Half of my Life handles the messages they want to put across in a very mature way, and I think stories like this are more memorable for me.
Drama-watching can be a source of comfort, if you’re a drama fan like me. And it’s especially so for a drama like this. Besides endless fangirling, watching this has so many gratifying spots. Just like how Zi Jun’s life hit rock bottom and eventually improved, the drama comforts in the fact that things change for the better as long as you work towards betterment, and the end actually doesn’t matter much.
There’s an old-fashioned Chinese saying that talks about how life is like a play, and how a play is a reflection of life (人生如戏，戏如人生). I think that accurately describes what this drama means to me, and I want to leave you all with this. Many thanks for reading!