Danger follows in his wake ….

love me if you dare close your eyes stay close to me wallace huo

He had to learn how not to let his eyes be bewildered by manifestations, and thereby learn to treat appearances as signs and codes of the interior

Ben Okri, Dangerous Love

Title
Love Me If You Dare (2015)
Also known as
Close Your Eyes, Stay Close to Me
Genre
  Crime,   Horror,   Melodrama,   Mystery,    Romance,   Thriller
Written by
Hai Yan
Directed by
Zhang Kaizhou
Starring
Country of Origin
China
Epoisodes
24

oh! … brief

In the aftermath of a near-death kidnapping encounter with a dangerous serial killer, criminal psychologist Bo Jin Yan returns to homeland China to recuperate.  During his recovery, he employs the services of translator Jian Yao to assist him in the translation of his research work.

Inadvertently the two become involved in a police investigation into the mysterious disappearance of local pubescent boys. While the case of the disappeared boys is solved, all is not as it appears on the surface and they soon become entangled in other cases.

oh! … talks drama

I chose this cdrama following several intense productions I had watched, hoping for some relief from the heightened meditative mood I had fallen into. And for countless reasons, I’m glad I did!

This deceptively good cdrama, masquerading as a love story, was in truth, primarily a psychological thriller.

I was instantly captivated by the profoundly creepy scene outside of the secluded house, where, in the first episode, a mysterious figure observes Jian Yao, her sister and childhood friend, from behind a curtained window.

Hai Yan adapted Love Me if You Dare from a novel written by Ding Mo. Not having read the novel myself, I have since been told that the screenplay remained faithful to the original story.

Having written the latter, Hai Yan’s screenplay established a solid premise and then relentlessly pursued it, winding its way through intense situations to a dramatic conclusion and ominous final scene.

While I was held captive by the developing story, I don’t believe enough attention was paid to researching criminal cases similar in nature to the ones portrayed was completed, and so, the narration and criminal aspects were marred by mind-bending inconsistencies.

One amusing aspect of the narration was the manner with which law enforcement explained the nature and drivers of crimes to the very perpetrators of said crimes as if they didn’t know what they had done. To make matters worse the narration was then delivered in summary, once again, for the audience, as if they (the audience) wouldn’t have sufficient intelligence to understand the goings-on. It was an insult to intelligence but didn’t constrain my bias for the production.

On the whole, Hai Yan delivered a credible story, acceptable narration and strong character development in the writing of this cdrama’s storyboard and script.

An aspect of several that I appreciated in Hai Yan’s writing of Jin Yan’s character, was the careful crafting of the scenes where Jin Yan observes re-enactments of criminal activities as if he were physically present at the time of the crime. Not a new technique for this type of storyline, however, Hai Yan used it to cleverly portray Jin Yan’s practised ability to penetrate the inner minds of the criminals he profiled.

Another skilled writing aspect that Hai Yan accomplished was the set-up of Jin Yan as a psychopath. I’m not only referring to his so-called alter-ego (Allen). Jin Yan was simultaneously portrayed as a man with high intelligence quotient, a grandiose sense of self-worth with narcissistic tendencies, and exceedingly low emotional intelligence, underscored by the brilliant criminal-breaking mastermind that he was. But, when combined with his callous lack of empathy and shallow affect insinuated a psychopathic disorder. And based on the creepy ending, it was shrewdly communicated throughout the drama.

I enjoyed the writing of Jin Yao’s character immensely. Portrayed initially as this self-aware and extroverted young student about to graduate university, it’s interesting to then witness her as a delicate and innocent young lady when she’s in the presence of Jin Yan and Fu Zi Yu. I think Hai Yan used this contrast with the male lead to depict innocence versus treachery. Clever!

I welcomed the dialogue between the Chinese and US characters where the characters delivered their lines in their native language. It was risky, but, I applauded the change to the norm.

Where there were successes in the writing of characters, there were also minor gaffes. The most glaring:

  • As previously mentioned, the writing specific to the criminal cases was sketchy at best with gaping holes in logic and reasoning. Given time constraints in episodes, it could be the fault of editing, but I’m not entirely convinced.
  • The US FBI agents (speaking English with European accents) were unintentionally portrayed as idiotic, bumbling fools, or was it intentional? Overall the foreign characters were poorly written and their dialogue was frequently nonsensical.
  • The writing of the depraved psychotic villains was strangely frustrating. Hai Yan painted a baffling and somewhat unbelievable scenario with all the villains trapped in a mutual obsession for each other and their desire to subjugate Jin Yan. I initially didn’t understand the disciple, mentor and creator roles. It was only on revisiting certain episodes that the picture became clearer. I believe that Hai Yan could have improved the development of Li Yi Yang (the creator),  Xie Han (the mentor), and Tommy (the disciple and Flower Cannibal).

In summary, while flawed in certain areas, the writing excelled in others and the flawed sections were not grossly negligent or overly distracting.

For the cinematography, director Zhang Kaizhou used a stark, vibrant colour palette and in contrast, a noire-styled sombre, murky colour palette depicting the light and dark, romance and obsession, good and evil for this cdrama. It was sublime!

The use of various randomly placed cameras to capture interior scenes was strategic and awarded the audience with unusual and often pleasing scene composition with different camera angles. In other words, I believe the cinematography was somewhat unusual for a cdrama, but I endorse this relatively trendy approach. The end result wasn’t always successful, but I applauded the effort.

All things considered, this production was masterfully filmed/taped. The dexterous use of colour palettes, the sets and locations, the camera angles, and the obviously attractive leading cast members allowed for granted the audience a visually artistic, polished final product. I was seduced optically, from start to end.

Together with the visual, the source music (including the single Obsessed With You by Juno Su Shi Ding) was alluring, haunting or dramatic. I was entranced and downloaded what I could find online.

But this production would not have kept me mesmerised or captivated without the incredible leading and supporting cast members from China.

There was amiable bromance between Jin Yan and Fu Zi Yu. Not only did the two share impeccable costumes, hairstyles and charisma they also shared a friendly camaraderie typical of dramaland bromance. I particularly enjoyed Fu Zi Yu’s determination to secure Jian Yao as girlfriend or lover for his brother-in-arms. It was another appealing aspect of his complex personality.

The chemistry shared between Jin Yan and Jian Yao manifested over time and developed naturally. There was definitely sexual tension as the drama progressed and its intensity was remedied with an awkward but simultaneously charming date night.

But, this wasn’t the only relationship with chemistry. Jian Yao and Xun Ran shared a chaste fraternal love for each other. This was evident in the caring and selfless nature of their friendship and platonic love.

The chemistry between Jin Yan and the villains (creator, mentor and disciple) was dynamic and aggressive. I savoured every moment where Jin Yan embraced his darker side. It was carnal and borderline erotic. Hey! That doesn’t paint me as some obsessive fan because I acknowledge my physical attraction to a character, or as an unhinged maniac because I liked the good guy playing the ‘bad guy’.

Leading man Bo Jin Yan (Simon), criminal psychologist, young professor (University of Maryland US) and socially awkward genius offset his unemotional narcissistic self by falling in love. Played by the dashing Wallace Huo, Jin Yan’s every trait, facial expression, or fluid body movement manifested to convey the very essence of his character. Wallace Huo was flawless in channelling the perfect balance of haughtiness, petulance, allure and sexuality as Jin Yan. I truly believed that in Jin Yan’s honest and forthright manner of communicating, there was a total lack of understanding on his part to the nature of his heartlessness and perniciousness. This was a large part of the attraction to his character, well, for me anyway. As Allen, Wallace Huo was both frighteningly authentic and hypnotic. It’s a scary thought to be so enticed by the dual personality of a seemingly well-adjusted and charming psychopath.  He mastered the distinct differences in the dual personalities he portrayed – the cool, calm, collected, suave criminal psychologist and the frenzied, bloodthirsty monster psychopath. It was all in the eyes and the minimalistic micro expressions. Magnetic, primal, and quite possibly the most fascinating and unique character I have ever witnessed in an Asian drama to date.  I am reconciled to the fact that I may never be able to lift my poor trampled heart out of the pits of hell in this lifetime. I am ruined! Talk about raw animal magnetism. And those feet! My god, the feet! Overshadowing his sexual allure, it was his acting and the honest delivery of his character that ripped into my chest and tore out my heart, honestly!

Jian Yao (Jenny, nicknamed Yao Yao) graduates from University during her time spent as an employee to Jin Yan and eventually becomes his assistant. She is a very analytical mind and is hyper-observant. For a brief period, she is the object of a love triangle, but that dissipates without her knowing. Considering Ma Si Chun’s acting experience, I expected an exceptional performance, this wasn’t one. The delivery of her character wasn’t as I had hoped. That’s not to say she was awful, far from it, but with the bar set so high by Wallace Huo and other cast members, I felt disappointed that she didn’t offer the same calibre. On the whole, she portrayed her character well enough not to become a distraction, but it was lacking and not on par with other leads. She either overacted or struggled in scenes where she was expected to cry. In fact, she looked pained and the tears never streamed unabated. And in the tender moments of intimacy, she was somewhat flat. Her best performances during the production came in interactions in group settings.

Zhang Xun Ran, Jian Yao’s childhood friend is now a detective and member of the local police force in his home city. He is tough, talented and comes from a police family background. Handsome Wang Kai lends his impeccable acting skills to possessing his character’s every trait. Wang Kai interpreted his character’s yearning for Jian Yao’s love astutely – it was heart-wrenching to witness him stepping back and playing second fiddle to Jin Yan. But, I’m a sucker for the third wheel, I’m always rooting for them to find, keep and treasure love. Wang Kai impressed me most with his deft dramatisation during his character’s incarceration with Xie Han and the scenes that followed. It was distressing to watch this resolute man plummet under hypnosis, but it was Wang Kai’s proficient enactment that numbed me. While quietly willing him to survive, I was immersed in the unfolding tragedy. Stupefying!

Fu Zi Yu was the charming, extroverted medical student, accomplished software and coding designer, and Jin Yan’s only friend. Yin Zheng brought Fu Zi Yu’s lighthearted and jovial character to life with comical expressions, funny jokes and sage advice. I treasured this character and Yin Zheng’s precise interpretation and performance. Of all the characters in the drama, he was the most irresistible. Yin Zheng was perfectly cast in this role and executed his character’s quirky personality heart and soul.

The rich son of a Chinese-American businessman, who suffered through a nasty divorce, abandonment by his mother, and abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father is the tortured soul, Jabber Xia Han, behind our psychotic serial killer creator. To avenge the imprisonment of his disciple, Tommy, and as revenge for escaping his clutches, Xia Han targets Jin Yan, the ultimate prize and potential new disciple or criminal partner. Zhang Lu Yi’s performance in this role was macabre at best and pretentious at worst. His acting was not consistent. He waltzed when he should have tangoed and tapped when he should have pirouetted. Perhaps that was exactly his intention or the directions he followed. It was unnervingly brazen and unbalanced in equal measures. I imagine Zhang Lu Yi mimicked psychotic traits diligently enough to agitate my sensibilities. It was most perplexing, I was suspended in quiet disbelief.

Casting for the so-called US agents was abysmal! Tommy (Marc Goodman) and Susan (Emily O’Hana) were exceptionally bad actors. Stilted and flat and delivering lines like bad puns. It was awful! Obviously, there were other offenders, but these two were crummy, plain and simple.  Dr Barnes (Matthew Knowles) was passable but none of these was very skilled.

oh! … sidekicks

So many sidekicks and almost all worth a mention, but, there are only two that I’m going to write about.

This character is adorable, but watch out, he might bite! Chenmo, Jin Yan’s quiet roommate has got to be the cutest sidekick on a drama … ever! I laughed like a giddy fool when Chenmo was crawling around on Jin Yan’s bed or floors. And such a creative way to deliver a single flower. Too cute! And then Chenmo keeps Jian Yao company while she is locked-down. Ahh, the romantic gesture was overwhelming.

The other sidekick is also not human, well not technically, although voiced by one. Of course, I’m talking about Jin Yan’s personal nightrider Andy.

Okay, I lied, I must mention at least one human sidekick. Liang Kai Wen, a law enforcement officer who played a minor role in supporting the investigation into Xia Han did a commendable job and so deserves some praise.

oh! … that’s a wrap

This drama pays lip service to law enforcement and forensic steps in investigation, profiling and capture of criminals. But, if you can overlook these infractions and the stilted English actors, then you’ll be able to see the beautifully crafted story, visually aesthetic cinematography and the brilliance of the leading actors.

I so enjoyed this drama that I fully recommend it and will certainly watch it again and again and again and again.

oh! … tidbits

Ding Mo’s novel Love Me, If You Dare, published in July 2014, was well known for its romance and mystery plots.

The production of this drama series was wrapped up in New York City with scenes featuring the leading characters Bo and Jian.

The series won the 2015 most-watched network drama award and the “Guduo Cup” network drama award.

The first Love Me, If You Dare preview trailer was revealed on 11 September 2015.

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery

In this gallery, I’m posting mostly gif images and a scattering of photos. I may revisit this and add photos later when I watch the cdrama again. Especially photos of Wallace Huo’s hands, feet and the cool way he seats himself in chairs. Yes, I’m smitten!

oh! … trailers

 

 

Written by