The nicest thing one can say about this film is that it gives an idea of what it was like growing up as a straight boy in Taiwan for the generation born in the 1980s, or at least an idealized “idol drama” version of it – but I think that this is done in a more interesting way in Eternal Summer (《盛夏光年》), which incorporates a gay story line and has more complex character development beyond the Taiwanese “everyman” represented in this film and even Winds of September (《九降風》). Based on a short story by Giddens Ko, a Taiwanese blogger-cum-novelist, You Are the Apple of My Eye is an extended idol drama, a dreary recounting of the author’s high school and university years. The humor in the film incorporates several wank jokes reminiscent of American Pie, but in this film these just came off as weird as the film tries to be an idol drama and The Inbetweeners at the same time, so the protagonist is a compromise between the typical Taiwanese drama male lead and an inbetweeners-style comically unself-aware weirdo and the balance didn’t quite work here, as he just came off as cocky.
I was left questioning what the message of the film was, as women in the film are only really valued in terms of how attractive they are to the opposite sex. Wafa Ghermani wrote an interesting piece on this marginalization of female characters in eRenlai here, including the following passage:
The only recent film that plays with this peripheral aspect is You’re the Apple of My Eye, indeed by adopting the narrator’s point of view, the film endorses the young hero’s gaze on his classmate. She, herself is deprived of an existence outside the hero’s gaze but she is both peripheral and central to the narration. This narrative stance allows the main character to create an ideal female who still escapes his understanding. The film establishes a distance and a game between the external image of the heroine, and the life of the hero. Whilst the heroine is seen as a smooth surface without any real desire or lust, the male character is shown with an overactive body. The heroine is seen, described, talked about but does not have a direct active role in the narration. Still the female character remains someone alive, in opposition to many ghostly characters.
The friendship between the high school boys in the film also seemed to be quite superficial – essentially whenever the protagonist turns his back for two seconds, the other guys try to swoop in to steal his girl. The only real lesson the film seemed to be preaching was that fat people aren’t trustworthy (and that they piss in their cars?). The film has the same feel as many other films by younger directors, some are a lot worse but many are better.
As this is one of the only Taiwanese film I’ve reviewed thus far (although I’ve reviewed some on my old blog here), I don’t want to discourage people from checking out what Taiwan cinema has to offer. So I’ve listed some worthwhile Taiwanese films below:
A One And A Two 《一一》
Seven Days in Heaven 《父後七日》
Voices of Orchid Island 《蘭嶼觀點》
Goodbye Dragon Inn 《不散》
I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone 《黑眼圈》
The River 《河流》
What Time Is It There? 《你那邊幾點》
Dust in the Wind 《戀戀風塵》
The Puppetmaster 《戲夢人生》
The Personals 《徵婚啟事》
Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land 《暗戀桃花源》
A Borrowed Life 《多桑》
Formula 17 《17歲的天空》