I cannot blame him for not knowing the gentleness of my soul!

Why is there ever this perverse cruelty in humankind, that makes us hurt most those we love best?

Jacqueline Carey, Kushiel’s Chosen


Cruel Romance (2015)
   Action, Melodrama, Romance, Tragedy
Written by
Yuan Shuai
Directed by
Lin Helong
   Huang Xiaoming,   Joe Chen,   Kimi Qiao,   Lu Jiarong,   Tse Kwan-ho,   Qi Ji  
Country of Origin

oh! … brief

An injured Mr Chen was being pursued by a Japanese ‘businessman’, Maeda Ryuichi, when he stumbles across the home of Rong Jinxiu, one of his students. He is rescued by Jinxiu and her father, a renowned pharmacist. He reveals that he has hidden a pocket watch that the Japanese want to recover and Rong Jianxiu heads off to locate it.   Unfortunately, Maeda Ryuichi’s men find that Mr Chen has received assistance from Rong Xianxiu’s father and so he kills the entire family. Mr Chen is subsequently located and killed too.

Left with only a pocket watch as evidence, Rong Jinxiu heads to Shanghai to uncover the culprit behind her family’s demise. On her way, she runs into a famous triad leader, Zuo Zhen and on arriving in Shanghai, she finds her long-lost half-sister Yin Mingzhu. Zuo Zhen helps Rong Jianxiu several times and then falls in love with her. But his lifestyle and business put Rong Jianxiu is danger many times.

oh! … talks drama

I’m typically not an avid fan of the Chinese republicanism styled drama and film, but, this cdrama was surprisingly good given that it is based on a Chinese republician novel.

Yuan Shuai, the scriptwriter, has penned a truly interesting tale of romantic entanglements among the characters set against a backdrop of conflict between the Chinese and Japanese in Shanghai in perhaps the early 1900s or just before the 2nd Sino Japanese War and World War II.

The story is based on a novel by Yu Yi called Fate of Jinxiu.  I think Yuan Shuai allowed for a balanced inclusion in his script of the anti-Japanese sentiment of the times which of course is a true reflection of the history. After the Japanese invaded Shanghai these anti-Japanese sentiments just grew. Fortunately, they do not become a focus of this cdrama.

One of the other admirable aspects of Yuan Shuai’s script is that he created male and female characters that are strong, strong-willed yet also flawed. Each of the characters, whether male or female, carried a secret and a deep desire and it’s interesting how their paths are entangled just as much as their love lives. It makes for an engaging production.

I was thrilled by how much action was included in the script too. I love action films and relish the well-choreographed fight or chase scenes, this production had a fair number of them and a bit of swordplay too, so these were all bonuses that I wasn’t expecting.

This romance has a number of love triangles going on all at the same time. It’s hard to keep track of who loves who and who hates who at any given time. But it’s fun and offers plenty of entertainment and laughter. And I like a good laugh!

You may struggle a little with the step-sister hatred, one-sided of course, but to wrap your head around it you should understand that backstory. Rong Jinxiu’s father, Mr Rong was first married to Ming Zhu’s mother and Ming Zhu was the firstborn. He then marries his wife’s sister and has Rong Jinxiu. Growing up the girls are close because they don’t see fault in their father’s behaviour or how he treats his two wives. However, out of jealousy, Ming Zhu’s mother tries to poison Rong Jinxiu’s mother and that is the real reason behind Ming Zhu’s departure from the home, not that her father kicked them out but her mother’s jealousy drove them out.

I do like the pace at which the romance develops between Zuo Zhen wooing Rong Jinxiu and that it is the male who falls in love first and not vice versa. I also really enjoyed how the script has Zuo Zhen wooing Rong Jinxiu after she brushes his affections off so easily in the beginning. The slow and steady build-up to the romance makes this a slow burner of sorts but in a good way.

Director Lin Helong did a good job with the actors and actresses and in directing the filming, but I think the editing came apart at the seams. I found the constant and repeated flashbacks a little annoying and a lazy way for the production to be pulled together, especially towards the end where scene after scene is interrupted by long extended flashbacks. I did find myself skipping these parts.

The wardrobes chosen for each character were sometimes elaborate, perhaps too elaborate, but mostly chosen well and/or well thought out. The women’s dresses or suits were stunning, and the men always looked dapper. The locations for shooting this production lent themselves well to the camera lenses and offered stately backdrops for the most part.

The music for the production was surprisingly enjoyable. Often with cdramas, I find that the music doesn’t stay with me, they’re not songs or tunes I can remember, this production was different. The accompanying soundtrack featured the songs Fate by Huang Xiaoming, Circumstances Change With Time by Shen Yisha, Love is a Faith by Edison Li, Wrong Love by Liu Tao, Madness by Jovi Theng, Lightly by Ca Xuanbin, and At Least We Loved Before by Rynn Lim among others.

The cast, of course, included big names like Huang Xiao Ming, Joe Chen, Kimi Qiao, Garnder Tse, Qi Ji among others and for the most part the characters were well suited to the actors that played them.

Huang Xiao Ming played the formidable Zuo Zhen aka Er Ye, triad leader. I had read somewhere that he had been injured prior to filming and so most of his action scenes were face-to-face combat and not chase scenes. He did amazingly well if that is the truth. He’s a good-looking young man and his features suited the character, especially his sullen face. And boy was he ever cute when he started to fall in love. I really enjoyed watching his performance and think he did an exceptional job of depicting his emotions and venting his anger.

Rong Jinxiu was played by Joe Chen and I was thoroughly entertained by her performance. Joe Chen had the whole country girl ‘act’ well developed and then as the character matures, so too did Joe Chen’s interpretation – a more refined, slightly more elegant woman surfaces. It was great!

Kimi Qiao (god bless him) was great as Xiang Ying Dong and pulled off the immature, compulsive young character of his – a young man living in the shadow of his older brother. I felt the right amount of angst from Kimi Qiao’s performance and also the right amount of frivolity. I’d have liked to see more of the maturity develop in him depicted in more scenes but unfortunately, it didn’t happen. I think perhaps the writing for this character was overlooked a little and then rushes were made to address it later. Either way, Kimi Qiao did a fine job with his performance and I will miss him and his amazing smile!

Yin Ming Zhu, the detestable stepsister who has a huge chip on her shoulder was played by Kelsey Lu. This character was perhaps the most complex to play of all of them. There were three faces or facades. The hatred, anger and jealousy for Rong Jianxiu and the bitter feud that is one-sided on her part, the smiling and loving girlfriend to Xiang Han Chuan and his brother Xiang Ying Dong, and then the calculating but very afraid spy for Takiichi Maeda. I found that sometimes Kelsey Lu didn’t get the right emotions in the right scene for the right aspect of her character. But, overall I think she did remarkably well in depicting her disguised power and hidden weaknesses.

Gardner Tse, an award-winning actor, played Xiang Han Chuan and I think I’ve seen him perform much better in other productions. I found this performance rather flat, one-dimensional and void of emotions and not just because the character was exceedingly calm and collected. I wasn’t impressed with Gardner Tse’s performance at all.

Takiichi Maeda, the loathsome and troublesome Japanese ‘invader’ was played by Qi Ji and this performance was exceptional, perhaps the best of the entire cast. I think that Qi Ji inhabited his character, he became the cold, calculating enemy. His interpretation of Takiichi Maeda was spine-chilling at times, those crazy-eyed smirks where his lip curled up on one side was just phenomenal emoting!

oh! … sidekicks

Of course, the two sidekicks I’m going to write about here are the obvious ones – Zuo Zhen’s two right-hand men. Not that they were the only sidekicks for this production, there was Jin Ling, Ming Zhu’s confidante played by Xie Wenxuan, or, Muto Oda, Maeda’s teacher and a Japanese spy played by Mark Du, among others.

Tang Hai, close friend or brother to Zuo Zhen and one of his right-hand men was played by  I loved this character because he was so filled with life and as mischievous as heck and I think the character came to life because Cai Juntao nailed his interpretation of the script and his characters’ idiosyncrasies. I enjoyed the camaraderie or bromance that he has with Zuo Zhen and the other right-hand man, Shi Hao.

Shi Hao was played by Yang Le and he too is one of the supporting characters that was brought to life by an amazing actor. I liked that with all his emoting, you could physically see the loyalty in his face and body language, even as he is ‘betraying’ his master, not once, but twice. Yang Le did an excellent job!

oh! … that’s a wrap

I enjoyed this cdrama. I would likely watch this production again, but it is rather long with forty-odd episodes. It’s not without its flaws and it sure has a lot of ‘pretty’ inside, not to mention more than a few naked chest scenes.

You’ll enjoy this production if you’re a fan of romance with a solid dose of melodrama and love triangles.

oh! … tidbits

 Cruel Romance became a commercial success for China and the second highest rated television drama for the first half of 2015. It also has over 5 billion views online.

 In 2016, actor Kimi Qiao took his own life following a long battle with depression and insomnia.

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery


oh! … trailers

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