Over the past year or so, I feel like I haven’t watched that many Taiwanese dramas. But I think I’m starting to get my head back in (so to speak) since there has been a few with decent production values and solid reviews. I wasn’t going to watch Rock Records in Love 滾石愛情故事 because it’s a collection of 20 short stories. If a story is good, it’ll be unsatisfying and if it’s bad, it’ll just be a waste of time. Also, the twist is each story is tied to a classic “Rock Records” song. To be honest, I only know a few of these classic songs, since I mostly listened to cantopop until probably the mid 2000s LOL. They also managed to gather some of Taiwan’s most well known directors and writers for this project – a testament to Rock Records’ significance in Taiwan’s music industry?
All of the reasons above are great but alas, my decision was only made when I found out the first story Love features Rainie Yang and (Chris) Wu Kang Ren as leads. Of course I have to at least watch that episode!!!!
Episode 1 – Love 愛情
They really pulled some great names for episode 1 as it is directed by Chen Ming Chang (The Prince Who Turns Into a Frog, Fated to Love You, Drunken to Love You) and written by Wu Luo Ying (The Hospital, Back & White, Youth Power) and of course starring Rainie Yang and Wu Kang Ren (aka Chris Wu). As each story is only about 40-ish minutes long, you’d expect everything to be straightforward without much time to really get to know each character. That is true here, however, I couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear throughout this first episode. Rainie plays Chen Li Xin, your ordinary girl who moved from the country to the big city (Taipei). She works as a receptionist by day, only to leave work to her second job at a record store. She counts every penny she spends, trying to find the cheapest eateries around only to live in a small windowless room whom she shares with a flatmate with a penchant for fortune telling and giving love advice…
On the other hand we have Zhang Jing Ye (Wu Kang Ren), another ordinary office worker who I must admit, looks a bit geeky and not all that comfortable around girls. He grew up in a middle class family, still lives with his parents and wonders whether that is the reason he can’t find a girlfriend. He believes in that ‘feeling’ you get when you find the right person – his heart will beat faster, he can’t find words to say to her…
Within a short 40 minutes, Li Xin and Jing Ye meets, become best friends and both gradually wonders whether something romantic is developing between them. For Li Xin, she doesn’t want to lose her only friend in the city (argh the age old argument against friends –> lovers). However, for Jing Ye, he feels so comfortable around Li Xin he doesn’t believe it could be romantic because he doesn’t feel the ‘spark’, that love at first sight moment…
Sure, this isn’t any acting breakthrough for Rainie and Chris* here, but they are so enjoyable to watch and I loved all their scenes. You know every year I seem to add another actor to my ‘favourites’ list and this year, I definitely think Chris is going on that list. He just has that natural charisma I love to see on screen. Watching Jing Ye, I completely forgot about Zhao Sheng Wei (his character from Long Day’s Journey into Light) which is still pretty fresh in my mind. I am definitely watching more of his dramas from now on.
Apart from the actors, I also loved how they were able to tie the storyline back to the song. Also, it was filmed with a ‘nostalgic’ feel (kinda like they had a yellow-ish old school filter on), which really suited my impression of Rock Records.
Of course I wish this was longer! Hey, I wouldn’t mind if they’re the leads for the whole 20 episodes but alas, I can’t be so greedy.
Song tie-in for episode 1: Love by Karen Mok
Episode 2 – The End of Loneliness 終結孤單
I wasn’t planning to watch every episode and just concentrate on the ones with the actors I’m interested in. (eg. Roy Qiu / Annie Chen, Tammy Chen / Nylon Chen, Lego Li / Puff Kuo, Nikki Hsieh / Alien Huang) However, episode 2 had pretty good reviews so I thought I’d watch it as well. New episode – new team and this time we have director Xu Fu Xiang and writer Ryan Tu Zheng Zhe who both worked on The Way We Were starring Sandrine Pinna and Alan Ko, The End of Loneliness isn’t what you’d expect it to be.
The song this story links to is very upbeat but the mood of this episode was quite the opposite. It starts with a breakup between Zhu Jia Ling (Sandrine Pinna) and Ren Zhao En (Alan Ko) resulting in Zhao En moving out of their apartment. As Jia Ling laments over what went wrong in the relationship and tries to adjust being single again, we see flashbacks of how Jia Ling and Zhao En’s relationship began.
The journey of their relationship is explored in quite a lot tof detail (considering this was only a short drama). They knew each other from university and Zhao En had a crush on her although she had a boyfriend at the time. So when they meet again at a bar where his band was playing (he’s the lead singer), they hook up pretty much immediately and began a relationship. Since they hardly knew each other before they got together, eventually they discover their incompatibilities and cracks appear…
What I liked about this episode was how easily you can identify with Jia Ling. That feeling of lost, loneliness and trying to adjust to being alone again… Although the story starts off with the breakup where we saw the worst side of Zhao En (he was kinda having an affair by then…), the backwards story telling allowed us to see the sweet side of their relationship. The little moments where they messaged each other all day sharing the small nonsenses of life, when they shopped together for their new home when they were moving in together… there was a time when I thought maybe, just maybe they can get back together. However, things got interesting when the writer chose to retell some of the events from Zhao En’s perspective. Since she has a higher paying job than him, she’s more extravagant on some purchases. For example, when she bought him an expensive chair. She viewed this as just being good to the person she loves. However, he viewed it as pressure. He was uncomfortable with this but didn’t say anything.
Sandrine Pinna shows why she’s an award winning actress here. You can feel her joy and pain throughout her relationship with Zhao En. I’ve never liked Alan Ko as an actor, but he’s serviceable here and kinda fits into that image I have of him. While the ending might not be as upbeat as Mayday’s song, it does leave you with a bittersweet feeling. Even though they didn’t work out, at least you know there was a time when they were an important person in each other’s hearts. Some things were just not meant to be but hopefully we learnt something from the experience.
Song tie-in for episode 2: Loneliness Terminator by Mayday
Overall, Rock Records in Love is off to a great start which caught me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting such a well made production with insightful storylines fit into such a short period of time. The good thing about this format is I don’t feel ‘obliged’ to chase it every week. I can just watch it at my own pace and skip episodes where necessary.
I’m not sure why the major streaming sites (Viki / DF) haven’t picked this up yet, because it’s totally worth it!