七月与安生

Movie of the Month: 七月与安生

For the first half an hour this film, a 2016 adaptation from the 2002 novel of the same name, just looks like it’s going to be another “chick flick” about a couple of female BFFs and their love triangle with the handsome jiā míng. And essentially that is exactly what it’s about, but I was kept interested by the prospect that the two female protagonists, qī yuè and ān shēng, might turn out to be lesbian. And that would certainly be edgy for a Chinese movie.

For the student of Chinese this film also shows a bit of insight into Chinese society, with the character qī yuè coming under pressure from her parents and expecting to get married and have a baby with her first ever boyfriend, jiā míng, immediately after graduating from university. It’s sounds weird to most Westerners, but it’s extremely common in China. This “traditional” and “conservative” character is juxtaposed with that of ān shēng, a rock chick who drops out of school to work at a bar and then hitch hikes around China living the life of a vagabond. jiā míng is somewhere in the middle, he’s not ready to settle down with qī yuè, he wants to get out and live life while he is young, but he is not off the rails like ān shēng.

So far it sounds pretty boring. But there is a huge question mark over ān shēng’s sexuality. I suspected that qī yuè is in love with jiā míng, jiā míng is in love with ān shēng and ān shēng is in love with qī yuè. I won’t tell you if I was right but what I will say is that there are a couple of plot twists towards the end that I didn’t see coming and genuinely surprised me. This all left me with the feeling that the movie had been worth the effort all along.

The plot can be a bit confusing because it is not all in chronological order. It starts off in the present day with ān shēng bumping into jiā míng on the subway. They’ve not seen each other for years. Neither of them have seen qī yuè for years either, and all they know is that qī yuè has written a novel about their lives. ān shēng hasn’t read the novel and clearly doesn’t want to talk to jiā míng. She jumps off at the next stop and goes home to her daughter. Who the daughter is, where qī yuè is and why the three friends aren’t speaking to each other anymore are the real questions that keep you watching. ān shēng decides to read the novel and we are transported back to the beginning of the story.

As long as you can keep track of the chronological jumps this film shouldn’t be difficult for anyone with upper intermediate level of Chinese. If you can make it through the first half an hour the plot picks up pace, and the twists towards the end will hopefully make it all worthwhile.

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