The Way We Were (16 Summers): Eps 1-3
Taiwan’s rom-coms may be spazzy and addicting, but its slice-of-life dramas are on a whole different level. Taiwan makes some amazing slice-of-life dramas, and The Way We Were is no exception! This drama is a pleasant surprise for me because it evokes the feelings of summer–nostalgia, warmth, freedom, melancholy..–and it always leaves me feeling refreshed after each episode.
^16 Summers has great scenery!
The Way We Were is a story about the friendship of 5 people that spans for 16 years. It covers the time period from the 1990’s up to the present day, hence the original title, “16 Summers”. I prefer the original title since it really captures the spirit of the drama. (It’s also easier to type than the long title HEHEH.. *true motives revealed*) So from now on I’ll be referring to the drama by its original title, rather than its English title. 😉
Well, the first thing you may notice about 16 Summers is that it has a retro/vintage theme, with part of the story being in the 1990’s. Lately this theme has been all the rage both in k-dramas and tw-dramas. I haven’t really gotten into this trend, since I never watched the popular vintage dramas such as In A Good Way and Reply 1994. So although comparisons between 16 Summers & dramas like In A Good Way/Reply 1994 are bound to pop up, particularly from those who watched & loved these dramas…I cannot make these comparisons. And I don’t really want to anyways. I think it’s better to go into this drama without any preconceptions of what it should be like, and without its predecessors overshadowing every aspect of the story. I’d say that you should give 16 Summers a fair chance, without comparisons & expectations that it’ll adhere to the golden standard of vintage dramas.
Of course Ruby Lin is the big draw of the drama, because after all, she’s both the lead actress and the producer of 16 Summers. I was a bit nervous about Ruby’s role as a young student since she’s already far past that age range. And I hate to break it to you, but she isn’t the kind of actress that never ages. >_< I know she looks like she hasn’t aged a day here, but her aging is more apparent in some of her previous dramas such as Qing Shi Huang Fei. (In which she was playing the role of an unmarried princess..erm..) But surprisingly, Ruby looks SUPER youthful here! I don’t know if it’s the lighting or heavier makeup or what–Ruby looks the part of a woman in her 20’s. And guess what–her wig actually looks real!!
I’m loving Ruby’s character, Jia Ni, because she’s a hoot to watch with her no-nonsense attitude and wry sense of humor. She has some traits that seem stereotypical on the surface, but at a closer look, there’s something about her that differentiates her from the stereotypical heroine. Sure, Jia Ni is assertive, tomboyish, and unimpressed by the male lead–some of the staple hallmarks of a drama heroine. But at the same time, it never feels like she’s defined by the drama stereotypes. Jia Ni is her own person, someone who feels real and unattached to the drama tropes. I’m impressed by how Ruby has portrayed Jia Ni so far because she really loses herself in her role and makes me forget that I’m even watching Ruby on screen. IMO this is a great feat that both Ruby & the drama has accomplished–that every character is humanized and made into someone we can really connect to. This may seem like a given–I mean, shouldn’t all dramas humanize their characters?–but unfortunately, if you look at the popular tw-dramas as of late, it’s easier said than done. =_=
So, the basic premise of the story is that Jia Ni breaks up with her cheating ex-boyfriend and ends up making an unexpected friend along the way–Wei De (Leroy Young). OK is it just me or is it a huge surprise that Leroy is collaborating with Ruby?? For some reason I just never imagined this pairing before! Leroy is a fairly consistent actor, but he often gets the playboy roles so…it’s no surprise that Wei De is, in fact, a playboy. T_T” But don’t worry–Wei De isn’t a total jerk, he actually cares deeply about his friends and is sweet towards Jia Ni. The bad part about him is that because of his capricious nature, Jia Ni never takes him seriously and can’t see him as a potential love interest!
As for the Jia Ni x Wei De OTP, these two are really funny together and they already feel like a natural couple. They are so open and comfortable with each other that they act like an old married couple that just skipped over the honeymoon phase, haha. I also like how their relationship gradually develops until they are already so close to each other that it feels normal for them to be by each other’s side. Wei De is obviously aware of his romantic feelings towards Jia Ni, but I think Jia Ni is the one who’s the most out of touch with her feelings. Her besties can see right through her and they obviously think she’s falling for Wei De, but Jia Ni is probably the first to deny any romance with him.
The main supporting characters are Jia Ni’s two best friends, Rui Rui (Tiffany Hsu) and Jun Jie (Melvin Sia). They are Jia Ni’s constant and loyal supporters, the ones who are always there for her during her hard times & protect her from getting hurt. Rui Rui is observant and sensitive to Jia Ni’s unspoken feelings, while Jun Jie is always caring for Jia Ni. I like these two because they are more reserved in nature and they don’t always wear their heart on their sleeve. Rui Rui in particular is an enigma because it seems like she’s always thinking more than she’s telling us.
Both Tiffany and Melvin are experienced actors so it’s great to see them collaborating with Ruby & Leroy. I think that Tiffany is an underestimated actress who’s often given supporting role. Her subtle acting as Rui Rui is great so far. I last saw Melvin in Dragon Gate (he’s new to tw-dramas but has been in lots of Malaysian Chinese dramas), and at first I didn’t even recognize him here because he looks so different! O_O I prefer Jun Jie to Wei De because he’s so sweet and dorky, HEHEH. Plus have a bit of a bias towards Melvin, although I like Leroy too. I’m trying hard not to have 2nd lead syndrome though!!!!! *shakes fist at 2nd lead syndrome* That being said, I’m not looking forward to the love triangle (or square!) at all because I don’t want anyone to get rejected. :'(
Eps 1-3 are a great start for 16 Summers. Episode 2 is what really drew me into the drama, so I would recommend that you at least watch the first couple episodes before you decide whether or not this is for you. Also be sure not to watch the long preview for 16 Summers because it has MAJOR spoilers. X__X I wish I could unsee what I saw in that preview!
I didn’t talk much about the themes of the story, since I mainly wanted to introduce the characters. But the main theme is, of course, friendship, which runs deep throughout the first few episodes. Love may be the second main theme, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the friendships that are formed between Jia Ni & Wei De, Rui Rui, and Jun Jie. (There’s also a 5th friend Ah Qing but he’s not a major character at the moment.) That’s partly why I’m so scared that the romance might end up breaking this circle of friends apart someday. >_<
Don’t Be Friends Anymore in the Future (Ending Theme Song) by Zhou Xing Zhe
Where to Watch: The Way We Were is subbed on Viki.