Uncontrolled Love, Round Trip to Love and HIStory: Obsessed
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I recently began watching Boys Love (BL) movies and shows, coming across this genre when watching other Asian dramas like Bromance. It’s those YouTube thumbnails that get you! I’ve seen bits and pieces of a lot of movies/shows from China, completing only a few, some from Thailand, some from Japan (including bits and pieces of Yaoi Anime) and even a couple from Taiwan.
I haven’t seen enough to make any generalizations about the shows or movies, but I do know that most Chinese films post-ban have had either open endings or downright sad endings, with no happily ever afters for the main couple. Japanese films are still as dry/too quiet for me, with that hint of melancholy that seems to soak through every scene in the movie, eating away at any other emotion. Japanese BL anime (called yaoi) is just not my cup of tea. Thailand dramas, the ones that I’ve seen, are of the sweet and young love variety. And I was impressed by one of the Taiwanese dramas I saw. Since I haven’t seen any other mention of Taiwanese BL besides this one series, I wonder if Taiwan is also getting into the BL game?
Most of the shows/movies that I have seen have paper thin plots and some really bad acting. A few of the movies have been adaptations from books, and have some really scary male leads. These leads leave the wrist-grabbing, stalking heroes of Korean dramas miles behind in their quest to make the other male lead their own.
Below I’ve summarized and commented on Uncontrolled Love, A Round Trip to Love, and HIStory: Obsessed which I recently finished watching on YouTube. A shout out to those amazing subbers out there who provide us with the opportunity to watch all Asian Dramas/movies.
Uncontrolled Love was a two-part movie, adapted from Chinese writer, Lan Lin’s, novel of the same name. It was released on YouTube in Summer of 2016 and starred Meng Rui as Xie Yan and Wang Bowen as Shu Nian. It is available on YouTube.
Shu Nian was an orphan, who had spent his entire young life dreaming of the day he would be rescued by his prince. While he didn’t get a prince, he got a two-years-younger master, Xie Yan. Xie Yan came to the orphanage to look for a replacement for his dog, Alice. He made Shu Nian cry and then decided to keep him. The two spent their childhoods playing together, with Shu Nian doing everything his master wanted, including sleeping in Xie Yan’s arms.
The story then jumps forward to the two as adults. Xie Yan returns from abroad, and the first person he comes to see is Shu Nian. While Shu Nian’s feelings for Xie Yan have grown from a young boy’s gratitude and adoration to a mature love, which he desperately hides from Xie Yan, knowing the other man hates gay people. Xie Yan demonstrates his abhorrence when his current girlfriend teases him about holding hands with a friend in England. Over time, it becomes harder and harder for Shu Nian to hide his orientation when Xie Yan touches him and his body reacts.
Xie Yan continues to treat Shu Nian as his personal pet, ordering him around, hugging him, biting him, and sleeping with his arms wrapped tightly around Shu Nian. One day, as he plays with Shu Nian, he discovers Shu Nian’s excited state. Xie Yan leaves the room in disgust, and, then, immediately begins to distance himself from Shu Nian. Ultimately, Shu Nian is sent off overseas to get a Masters. Unbeknownst to Xie Yan, Shu Nian returns to China and starts living/working somewhere else.
Xie Yan, who has spent the entire time desperately missing Shu Nian, decides to go to New York. He then discovers that Shu Nian has returned. He goes to see him, and finds Shu Nian being attacked and almost raped by thugs sent by Xie Yan’s ex-girlfriend. Xie Yan saves the day and brings Shu Nian home, promising him that he will take care of Shu Nian for the rest of their lives. Or something like that.
In Part II, Xie Yan continues to manhandle Shu Nian, and Shu Nian has to tell him to back off. Xie Yan apologizes and tells him he’ll change, but we can all see that Xie Yan is beginning to feel something for Shu Nian. Xie Yan is mesmerized when he catches Shu Nian showering. He is also extremely jealous of Shu Nian’s relationship with Ke Luo, a new friend. When he sees Shu Nian seeming to choose Ke Luo over him, and then sees evidence of their relationship (a hickey), he goes berserk and attacks Shu Nian. He only stops his attack when he sees Shu Nian’s tears. He orders Shu Nian to leave, who does, only to fall sick into Ke Luo’s arms. Xie Yan stalks Shu Nian for a few days, and then saves him when Shu Nian is attacked as a party. After seeing Shu Nian in this state, Xie Yan finally confesses.
We have a few days of bliss before real life sets in. Xie Yan’s parents discover their relationship. They begin to pressure him to get married, and guilt Shu Nian about how much he owes them. Xie Yan assures Shu Nian they will be together, and he goes on the arranged blind date to make it clear to the girl that they cannot be together. She in turn tasers him into unconsciousness. Xie Yan spends the night in a hotel room, when he should have been meeting Shu Nian at a specific location with a bench (can’t quite remember where). Shu Nian is heartbroken after having waited the entire night, and decides that this is the end for them. He feels that Xie Yan never loved him. But even at this point, he still doesn’t move out.
One day, Xie Yan’s intended comes over to meet Shu Nian and then gets sick after eating Shu Nian’s cooking. Everyone believes that Shu Nian poisoned her out of jealousy, but it is Xie Yan’s rejection that drives him over the edge. He disappears. The truth comes out that Shu Nian is innocent. Xie Yan searches for him everywhere, and then one day, with Ke Luo’s help, he finds him. Shu Nian is scarred and walks with a limp, having been in an accident. Despite his disfigurement, Xie Yan professes his love and his intention to be with Shu Nian for the rest of his life.
While watching the movie, I found myself relatively untouched by their story. While Meng Rui did good acting as Xie Yan, making me feel something for his character, I felt that Wang Bowen was too raw for me to really enjoy his acting. I didn’t feel his pain, and I didn’t feel his love. It also didn’t help that most of the other actors onscreen (Xie Yan’s girlfriend and his intended, Ke Luo, even the thugs) all seemed to be bad actors, as well. The acting pulled me out of the story each and every time.
Additionally, the characters in the story weren’t really likable. Xie Yan was an entitled jerk. He spent his life treating poor Shu Nian as a pet, and then he was a total bastard once he discovered Shu Nian’s sexual orientation. He then fell in love with Shu Nian, but let Shu Nian down in a big way. Shu Nian was a martyr. Why was he so ready to give up his own happiness to be with such a cruel Master? The intended used Xie Yan, not caring of how she could hurt others by her machinations. The ex-girlfriend was completely crazy and even set up poor Shu Nian to be raped. The parents were hostile and unaccepting of their son’s sexual orientation. I usually have to like one person in the story in order to really like the story itself; that didn’t happen here.
The editing of the movie seemed very choppy, leaping from one point to another, which lead to me feeling completely disconnected from the story. Due to the editing, everything felt rushed and I felt that I couldn’t believe in Xie Yan’s sudden love because of the frenetic pace of the scenes sometimes.
The product placement and emphasis on things like the phone and cars were just too obvious. And for someone like me, who was already so disconnected from the story, it made that last bit of caring just disappear. While I understand this may be necessary to fund the movie, but it also shouldn’t be so darn obvious.
Finally, the movie itself had two endings, and the production released the sad ending first. Shu Nian dies and Xie Yan spends his entire life waiting on that bench. They then released the happy ending. Thank you to them!
It seems Lan Lin gave the two a sad ending first, and then ended up giving them a happy ending after public outcry. How are we supposed to trust the happiness of these two when the author pulls something like this? Even though I might not have cared too much about what happened to them by the end, but Shu Nian at least deserved a happy ending after all the stuff he went through in his life.
I wouldn’t say Uncontrolled Love is a must watch, not unless you want to watch probably one of the few Chinese BL movies that actually has a happy ending. But please remember to watch the right version!
A Round Trip to Love
A Round Trip to Love was a Chinese movie, released on YouTube in 2016. The two part movie starred Gao Taiyu as Lu Feng, one of our main leads, and Huang Jingxiang as Cheng Yi Chen, the other male lead. This movie was also based on one of Lan Lin’s novels, and has the same type of crazy Alpha male meeting a meeker partner, and pursuing that meeker partner to the ends of the Earth, even torturing him, to make him his own. It is available on YouTube.
Yi Chen and Lu Feng meet in boarding school and fall in love. While having one of their romantic moments, the two are caught by school administrators. Lu Feng is sent abroad and Yi Chen stays behind. Yi Chen has to face daily ostracism by his classmates and the revulsion he sees on their faces. His mother practically begs him not to be gay. Overcome by guilt, Yi Chen puts away his promise ring and strives to forget Lu Feng.
Years go by, and one day Lu Feng returns. He is Yi Chen’s boss now. While Yi Chen lies and says he has a girlfriend, he really only does so to keep Lu Feng at a distance. When Lu Feng comes to his home, the two have a romantic moment, sharing a kiss, which frightens Yi Chen enough that he submits his resignation. Lu Feng is angry and attacks Yi Chen, forcing his kisses and touches on him. Yi Chen tells Lu Feng that he no longer loves him, causing Lu Feng to back off.
While still at the office, Yi Chen’s little brother, also named Yi Chen, comes with a box of letters. He admits to having hidden the letters that Lu Feng has sent over the past however many years. Yi Chen sits there and reads them all, and is incredibly touched. He goes to Lu Feng and the two reunite.
In Part II, Yi Chen’s mother finds out about their relationship and has a heart attack. While she is in the hospital, Lu Feng ends up fighting Yi Chen’s little brother and causes the little brother to become paralyzed. Mom dies, but not before extracting a promise from Yi Chen that he will live a “normal” life with a wife. Yi Chen, buried under the guilt of causing his mother so much grief, ends up marrying his high school friend. Lu Feng attempts to talk to Yi Chen multiple times, and during one of those times he is hit by a car. While recuperating in the hospital, he sees Yi Chen’s wedding invitation.
Two years later, Yi Chen has a little son. His brother has recovered, and has his own male partner supporting him through these trying times. Yi Chen goes on a business trip, but the trip turns out to be a trap set by Lu Feng. Lu Feng gives Yi Chen an aphrodisiac and then spends the next few days raping him, trying to get him to admit that he is only Lu Feng’s. When little bro finally finds them, with the help of his sister-in-law and his partner, he attempts to shoot Lu Feng. Yi Chen, seeing the gun, shields Lu Feng, taking the bullet instead.
Yi Chen goes into a coma, and Lu Feng is heartbroken. He admits his love for Yi Chen to the world. While going somewhere, Lu Feng’s helicopter crashes and he is presumed lost. As his helicopter is crashing, Yi Chen awakens.
This was another disappointing watch. Let me the count ways . . .
Acting – It was very raw. Gao Taiyu tried, but I could see him “acting” in every scene he was in. I couldn’t feel his passion for Yi Chen, and felt that the romantic or sexual scenes between him and Huang Jingxiang were very forced. You know how sometimes when you’re watching something and the chemistry seems so real between the two actors that you have to wonder? That wasn’t the case here. Huang Jingxiand did a little bit better, but when he was called on to be visibly emotional, you could see him struggle, as well. Without that good acting, I felt the emotional connection was once again lacking.
Editing – The movie itself, even though in two parts, was very fast paced. It seemed to jump from scene to scene, without letting the viewers connect with any of the emotional beats. It’s a hard job to do, but I felt that there was so much story to tell that the emotions kind of fell by the wayside due to the frenetic pace. The time jumps from high school, to work life, to two years later didn’t help any either.
Story/Character motivation – I didn’t really get the deep emotional love connection Yi Chen and Lu Feng had in school, and if I couldn’t buy that, I couldn’t buy the rest of the story. Yi Chen moved on, got married and had a kid. Why was it so much harder for Lu Feng? The relationship that lasted for a few months affected the rest of this man’s life. I didn’t buy it. Lu Feng was scary as the male lead. And then we had Yi Chen, another martyr. He was so ready to give up, to hurt himself and the one he loved just to make everyone else happy. If he didn’t care enough about this relationship to hold on, why should we?
The Scary Seme/Uke relationship – Lu Feng thought that it was okay to stand in front of a car to catch Yi Chen’s attention. To kidnap the one he loved. To rape him repeatedly. To feed him an aphrodisiac. To videotape him. This is one scary person, and how does Yi Chen repay all of this craziness? By shielding him from his brother’s wrath. I don’t agree, Yi Chen. I don’t agree. Just because it is BL, that doesn’t justify all of the partner on partner violence. No one deserves to be manhandled, controlled, or terrorized in the name of love.
The ending – Despite all of my issues with this story . . . I tried to feel what Yi Chen felt. If he thought there was something worth saving in Lu Feng, I’d buy that. This story sold itself as a romance, and it failed to deliver. There was no happily ever after. But you know what? Maybe that was the happiest ever after for Yi Chen. To be completely free from this crazy love, and to one day find the courage to be who he wants to be.
A Round Trip to Love wasn’t a great watch, and I wouldn’t recommend it if you haven’t seen it.
The third and final review is on a Taiwanese webseries that was part of the HIStory series released in March 2017. The series had 3 mini dramas, and Obsessed closed out the BL series, being the best of the lot. Obsessed starred Ren You Cheng as Shao Yi Chen, and Sen Bernard as Jiang Jin Teng. It is available on YouTube.
The drama begins with Jiang Jin Teng telling his boyfriend of ten years, Shao Yi Chen, that he is marrying a woman. Yi Chen is understandably shocked and runs off. Jiang Jin Teng follows him, and Yi Chen breaks down in his arms, asking him how he could do this to them. When Jiang Jin Teng is unable to answer, Yi Chen runs off, running into the street this time, and ends up getting hit by a car. He dies.
But something brings him back, a hand reaches into the sea where he lies and pulls him out. He finds that he has gone back 10 years in time, and is back in his first year of college. He has gone back to a time before he met Jiang Jin Teng. Since Jin Teng caused his death, Yi Chen believes that this time around he will just avoid meeting Jin Teng and not die. But that’s a lot harder than he beleives.
While burning all the drawings he has made of Jin Teng, a few fly away and are caught by Jin Teng’s friends, who brings them to Jin Teng’s attention. Jin Teng is intrigued by this stranger who knows him so well. After asking around, Jin Teng approaches Yi Chen, who is shocked by the fact that Jin Teng even knows who he is. Yi Chen is saved by an upperclassman, who orders Jin Teng to go away.
Jin Teng then joins the club that Yi Chen is in, and tries to get to him that way. He tells Yi Chen that he only wants Yi Chen to look at him and asks about the other drawings. Yi Chen scoffs at his words, telling Jin Teng that he will not fall for him again. Jin Teng begins to touch Yi Chen, and Yi Chen quickly succumbs, his body still remembering his lover’s touch. But he is able to fight back, and he gets up and runs away. Jin Teng chases him, and then saves him from falling, but ends up hurting himself.
When Jin Teng awakens after the accident, he has amnesia. Yi Chen begins to take care of him out of guilt, but the viewers know that Jin Teng is only pretending. Even so, he is constantly amazed by the caring that Yi Chen and his mother provide him. Yi Chen is melting the longer Jin Teng remains with him. When he attempts to fight his attraction once more, Jin Teng holds on and tells Yi Chen that he cannot run away again. Jin Teng then kisses Yi Chen, who succumbs once more before hurriedly pulling away.
After speaking with his best friend, Yi Chen realizes that it may be better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all. When he goes to Jin Teng, he overhears the truth about Jin Teng pretending. He runs off, but this time the car stops. Jin Teng follows Yi Chen to his home, and the two have it out with lots of kissing in between. It is at this point that we see how much Jin Teng has fallen for Yi Chen, and why he won’t let go. Yi Chen gives in, knowing that he can only love Jin Teng despite the pain he has caused him.
We then get a little dream of the alternate reality where Yi Chen really died. Jin Teng mourns his lover’s death, and we discover the engagement was a smokescreen to protect Yi Chen from Jin Teng’s parents. When Jin Teng shares this with Yi Chen upon awakening, Yi Chen realizes the truth. The two claim each other, and the drama ends with some more kisses.
This was a sweet but short drama. While I liked it, I wish that it had been longer so that we could get more explanations. For example, how the heck did Yi Chen survive and go back in time? According to YouTube commenters, supposedly the girl that liked Jiang Jin Teng and got pretend-engaged to him was the reason that Yi Chen lived? Notice the weird hand movements at the lake when they are spreading Yi Chen’s ashes. Also, what’s so different this time around? If Jin Teng succumbed to pressure once, why wouldn’t he succumb again? And finally, why did Yi Chen keep on running out into the street without looking both ways?
I liked the acting of the two main actors. Both Ren You Cheng and Sen Bernard did a great job in their respective roles. Even the other actors, outside of the wanna be girlfriend, did good work. She was a little stiff, and the drama was only 4 episodes, so she didn’t have a lot of screen time to screw it up.
I liked the story, and thought that it was different enough to be enjoyable. I would definitely enjoy watching this as a longer drama. I would love to see how Jin Teng fell for Yi Chen, and why Yi Chen became so important to him. Additionally, wouldn’t it be fun to jump forward to 10 years down the line and see Jin Teng fight his parents and win? Otherwise, that fear would always be there that Jin Teng would give in once more. I would also want to know if Yi Chen ever tells Jin Teng about their past.
There was force once more, and I guess it is par for the course with these BL movies/shows. But once again, I’ll go with what the character felt. Yi Chen eventually gave in, knowing that his love and attraction to Jin Teng was what mattered, so I’ll accept it. I think seeing Jin Teng’s side of things might have made me more understanding, but we didn’t have time for that. I would definitely recommend checking out this series just for this mini-drama. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite all of the things that I was left wondering about.