Human happiness is defined by the hardships and conflicts you have been through…..

Sometimes we must undergo hardships, breakups, and narcissistic wounds, which shatter the flattering image that we had of ourselves, in order to discover two truths: that we are not who we thought we were; and that the loss of a cherished pleasure is not necessarily the loss of true happiness and well-being
Jean-Yves Leloup, Compassion and Meditation: The Spiritual Dynamic between Buddhism and Christianity

Title
 Autumn’s Concerto (2009) 
Also known as
  Next Stop, Happiness   &   Xia Yi Zhan, Xing Fu
Genre
Action, Drama, Melodrama, Romance, Tragedy 
Directed by
Starring
 Ady An,    Vanness Wu,   Ann Hsu
Country of Origin
 Taiwan
Episodes
 34 (Netflix) 21 (original release)

oh! … brief

The paths of a young man, Ren Guang Xi and woman, Liang Mu Cheng, cross. Ren Guang Xi is a serial dater and manipulative but accuses Liang Mu Cheng of being a manipulator. A bet brings the truth to light and the two start to feel an attraction to each other. But their budding love undergoes so many obstacles that eventually the two are forced apart. Six years later the two meet again, but only one of them has retained the memories of their past and decides to keep their former love secret to protect several family members and friends.  But the past, the lies, and deception cannot remain secret and eventually the truth surfaces. Unfortunately, the truth is unbearable and the lives each has created come crashing down and the drama that follows is heartbreaking and it seems that neither will survive.

oh! … talks drama

WOW! I’ve never cried so much over a drama before!

I am an anti-fan of excessively melodramatic productions, but I try my best to watch them because they are very much part-and-parcel of the Asian drama and film industry and my blog is about everything available. Honestly, though, I avoid them if I can. This tdrama, however, has further opened my eyes to the potential that some of the dramas I have overlooked might have. This one was mind-blowing!

Script writer Chen Hui Ling, with support from Zeng Yong Ting, Huang Ji Rou, Wang Yu Qi, and Lu Yi Hua, penned a dramatic and bittersweet love story shared by two people whose lives have been broken by their individual circumstance. It’s impossible not to be drawn into the tdrama because the script is so well designed to play on the emotions of the audience. As the characters develop and grow into their full potential, it is easy to connect with them individually, but also as an extended family brought together by Ren Guang Xi and Liang Mu Cheng. The lamentable narrative has so many disheartening moments but also includes tender and moving scenes. I couldn’t stop watching and did a marathon of episodes because I didn’t want to break the momentum and intensity. So much attention to detail in the backstories was written into the script that you can’t get lost.

The writers took all the typical drama clichés and then angled and reshaped them to create unexpected twists and turn to the overall narrative. These ploys keep the audience engaged, but it’s more than that. The manipulated clichés are precisely accomplished in a natural and effective manner. The story unfolds instinctively. Even the aspects of the memory loss (amnesia) which is by far the most overused cliché in the drama and film industry, has a new feel to it because it comes about differently and its consequences play out better than in some other dramas.

Hot mess? Yes! This drama is very dramatic and has some of the most intense dialogue scenes I have ever seen in a drama let alone a tdrama. The writers took everything to such an intense level you may need to take mini-breaks when things go over the top. The two phases of the love story are knitted together to create a convincing and absolute love, the earlier part the happy phase where they are young and free to plan their future and carefree. The later part is when they are mature adults (ahem!) but they can’t just pick up the pieces and return to their earlier freedom and carefree happiness.

The script also deals with complicated relationships (mother and son / single parenting / platonic friendships) and real life issues rape, sexual assault, unmarried pregnancy, single parenthood, drugs and trafficking, human trafficking etc.

If I have any criticism of the script it would be the ending which for me, fell flat given the melodrama leading up to the ending. I was not miserably disappointed, but it came close.

The directing this production was exceptional by tdrama standards. The camerawork was exceptionally good, capturing wide frame and close-ups with equal dexterity. I really enjoyed watching each scene play out and the balance of indoor and outdoor shooting was excellent. And this show was fast-paced, even when the script wasn’t, the action going on was good, all the time. The wardrobe was very shrewdly constructed throughout and good at aiding the story – villagers versus city folk for example. Rich versus poor. Aesthetically this was a good production. The accompanying soundtrack is great and features 13 songs, seven of them being instrumental versions of other tracks and features artists like Della Ding (I Love Him, Loved On, Four-Leafed Clover, Suddenly Want to Love You), Wakin Chau (Suddenly Want to Love You), Yen-ji (I Presumed, Not Letting Go, I Love Him Next Stop Fortune, Full Imagination), and my personal favourite Victor Wong (All For Love & I Presumed).

The cast members chosen for their various roles was so perfect it was almost flawless. The leads and supporting roles seamlessly became their characters and the exceptional acting is what kept me transfixed.

Liang Mu Cheng who falls in love with Ren Guang Xi was played by Ady An. She gave a heart stopping performance as Mu Cheng. She inhabited her character’s personality and emotions with careful insight and astute interpretation. Her character, a broken but gentle-natured young woman who is opinionated and has a strong sense of justice constantly pushing her forward through the hardships she is continuously dealt. Ady An was able to cry on demand and it felt real, not forced. In fact, all her portrayal of all the emotions her character faced were authentically displayed. I was drawn to her character’s backstory and I felt empathy for her plight. She used body language and facial expressions to emote her inner turmoil. Very strong performance!

Vanness Wu played Ren Guang Xi. The character starts as an arrogant, self-centered individual, but meeting the love of his life changes his attitude and perceptions. Vanness Wu gave a startling performance. His interpretation of his character as a spoilt rich kid was right on the money. When the character developed an affection and eventually love for Mu Cheng, Vanness Wu softened some of his harder or more aggressive actings to reveal a kind-hearted, genteel young man who is slowly letting go of his own personal demons. Later, his arrogance returns with a vengeance and is even fiercer than before. His features harden and his tone of voice matches his anger and frustration. Vanness Wu’s character is the only one who goes through dramatic role reversals and he nailed it! The fact that he is exceptionally handsome and physically toned adds to the allure for his character and I am certain these aspects kept many women watching drawing their breath.

Hua Tuo Ye, Mu Cheng’s best friend and the guy who in my opinion loves her the most, was played by Chris Wu. Man! I must be honest I loved this character and the performance by Chris Wu. I was hoping Mu Cheng and Hua Tuo Ye ended up together. To me, that would have been the best outcome. This character stuck it out through all the shit and melodrama caused by Ren Guang Xi and his family members and friends. Chris Wu’s performance went above and beyond the requirements for a tdrama. He was phenomenal.

He Yi Qian as a character was the ‘other woman’ and a doctor (later in the production). Ann Hsu played in this role and while she did a good job, I felt her acting was a little forced and not at the same standard as the other leads. Yes, she is beautiful and yes, she can act, but that doesn’t mean she automatically did a good job. I didn’t believe she genuinely loved Ren Guang Xi, I felt she filled a role in his life because she was placed there. I wasn’t enthralled by her performance and found her constantly smiling feigned true emotions she could have portrayed. And her portrayal of her character’s ignorance was dubious at best.

Mu Cheng’s son, Liang Xiao Le (Ren Xiao Le) was played by Xiao Xiao Bin. WOW!!! What a fantastic performance by such a young child actor! Big things will come from this little guy in the future, just watch and see! As Mu Cheng’s son this adorable little character had such a mature mind and brilliant dialogue to deliver and his performance was without fault. Every sentence out his mouth was authentically delivered. He balanced the cuteness factor and outperformed some of the adults. Xiao Xiao Bin’s chemistry with Ady An was a perfect portrayal of the relationship between a single mother and son. Xiao Xiao Bin’s portrayal of a natural attraction of his character to his character’s biological father was shrewd. WOW! Such brilliant interpretation. The chemistry Xiao Xiao Bin’s character shared with Huo Tuo Ye was just astounding – a surrogate father figure and he painted that relationship as organically as if the two were real. Astounding acting from a young kid! And he’s adorable!

oh! … sidekicks

Two stellar performances in supporting roles were given by Linda Liu and Renzo Liu. Linda Liu played Ren Guang Xi’s mother, the overbearing and rather manipulating woman who throws obstacles in her son’s path at every opportunity. Linda Liu’s performance was exceptionally good. I loved the stony-faced delivery of her lines right until her grandson breaks down the hard exterior.  Renzo Liu played Lawyer Lin, the family’s faithful lawyer who sticks around and tries hard to impart sensibility and honour into Ren Guang Xi, and eventually succeeds. Renzo Liu’s performance was understated and gentle but had a great impact because of it. The solid rock in the midst of angst and frustration.

Of course, there were countless performances by a solid cast of supporting actors and actresses, but it would be a long venture to mention them all.

oh! … that’s a wrap

I can’t wait to watch this production again, I enjoyed it that much. That means a lot given the fact that I loathe melodrama. The story to this production was heartbreaking enough to pull at my heart strings. Maybe I identified with the female protagonist and male leads on a very personal level? Maybe this story is too close to my own personal life history? Whatever it was that attracted me, I was transfixed and compelled to watch all 34 episodes.

If you’re a fan of melodrama, even excessive melodrama then you will enjoy this production. You might even enjoy it even if you aren’t a fan. Be warned though, every possible drama cliché is used and then some. You’ll likely need a box of Kleenex and a pint or two of your favourite ice-cream.

oh! … tidbits

Autumn’s Concerto broke records with its high ratings to become the second-highest rated Taiwanese idol drama, second only to Fated to Love You

An adaptation of the production was written by Liang Wen Ru and is titled Next Stop, Happiness: The Novel released on October 21, 2009.

A second book (a coffee table book or photo book) was released in December of 2009 titled Next Stop, Happiness – Notes from Planet Dala: The Photobook

Two languages were used in the production – Mandarin is spoken mostly in Taipei scenes and Taiwanese spoken for the village scenes.

Filming locations for the production included Taoyuan, the National Central University, the Yuan Ze University, Min-Sheng General Hospital, and Yilan County.

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery

oh! … trailers

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