Movie Review : Us and Them (后来的我们) –– A Love Story
The movie Us and Them tells the story of Xiaoxiao and Jianqing.
Ten years ago, on a train home during the busy Spring Festival travel period, fate brings Xiaoxiao and Jianqing together. Like many young couples, they meet, fall in love, and strive to make it work, but eventually, the harsh realities of life make them drift apart. Ten years later, they run into each other again. Will they make the most of this second chance and rekindle what they once lost?
A Sneak Peek Into “Us and Them”
Fang Xiao Xiao. A petite woman clad with thick winter jacket in her early 20s is ruffling her bag for her train ticket as the ticket inspector barrage her for her lack of one.
“Have you found it yet? Just pay for the ticket, stop wasting my time.” The man annoyingly said.
“Can you check the others first? I will show you my ticket once I found it,” Xiao Xiao pleaded as she continued to rummage through the belongings.
“No. I know you won’t be able to find it. I’ve seen plenty of people who act like they have lost their ticket. Just buy the ticket from me at its original price or the officer will show up and issue you a fine.”
The ticket inspector was relentless in his quest to get Xiao Xiao to either give up and buy a train ticket on the spot or to shoo her off the train. And with the train being so fully packed in the Spring Festival travel period, it is evident that both the train inspector and the passengers around Xiao Xiao are getting exasperated with the bickering and for the fact that she was in the way of people trying to get in and out of the train.
It was at that moment where a young man’s voice called out, “Miss, this ticket is yours, right?” as he holds out a square piece of paper that writes out their departure date and place. Their eyes met right at that moment as she nodded and gave him a small smile.
What initially started off as them being strangers who would have never crossed paths, was immediately changed by that one square piece of paper and a very demanding ticket inspector.
After thanking the young man for his help, she decided to sit with them throughout her train journey back to her hometown. When things calmed down a little, she learned that his name is Lin Jian Qing, and apparently him and his 3 friends all come from the hometown close to Xiao Xiao’s. All through the train ride, the 5 of them spend time by playing cards, telling absurd and funny stories while stealing a few sips of instant noodle soups when they were asked to pass the noodles around. A few hours into the ride, the train suddenly stops with the announcement that the train has to stop due to bad weather and nobody is sure how long the train will out of commission for.
At first, the 5 friends––as annoyed as they were––decided to try and wait it out. However as the minutes tick by, they get more and more impatient and bored. Until finally, they all decided to just grab their bags and walk the rest of their way––in the snow––back to their hometown. Their walk in the snow was boisterous, filled with alcohol to keep them warm and sometimes singing and stories to keep them entertained.
“Why has this world never had a story that is happy from beginning to the end?”
“Because happiness is not a story. Misfortune is.”
From then on, Xiao Xiao became a constant in Jian Qing’s life. He would be there for her throughout her parade of boyfriends as Xiao Xiao continuously and aggressively look for men who has stable incomes who could provide for her and buy her a house in Beijing. Jian Qing was there through every breakups, he’s the one that Xiao Xiao always introduced her boyfriends to and he’s also the one who was there to console her when she went through breakups after breakups.
From career changes, relationship changes to life changes, everything comes and goes but the one constant in both Xiao Xiao and Jian Qing’s lives are each other. Years passed as they stayed friends, constantly dancing around each other until one day, below the fall leaves and brisk cold, Xiao Xiao asked for Jian Qing to become her boyfriend.
With how close they were as friends, it’s almost automatic to assume that the would would work out and would be in it for the long haul, right? That’s what I would like to think as well, but reality always seems to have a way to prove us wrong.
Gosh. It’s been so long since I’ve sat down and really, truly racked my brain to come up with a review of a book/movie/tv show. Your girl was lost for a while back there, floating in the midst of nothingness. However worry not, she’s slowly but surely swimming her way back to shore.
This movie Us and Them was a movie that I watched last year and have been wanting to review for quite some time. I don’t know why I didn’t write one as soon as I watched it last year, and instead chose to save it in drafts for the longest time. I suppose the movie was a little too deep and too devastating for 2019’s Wynne, but that is not the case for 2020’s Wynne.
In order to refresh and jog my memory as to why I love this movie in the first place, I rewatched the movie in its entirely a few days ago and am now finally ready to dust off my review gloves that I have stored away for so long and get down and dirty. Oh and, if you have yet to watch this movie and want to avoid spoilers, this is not the review for you because it’s going to be filled with spoilers.
If this movie taught me anything, it’s the fact that in life, just because you want something and really put in your all to make it work, sometimes things are just not meant to be and that is okay. You have to learn to be kind to yourself and let the past go.
In Us and Them, both Xiao Xiao and Jian Qing tried to get their relationship to work. Sure, one might be trying harder than another at some point in their relationship, but both of them did try and it was just not meant to be. As much as they love each other. At first, everything is sunshine and roses as they go through the honeymoon phases but eventually, reality started catching up. The reality that Beijing is a big, cold, and heartless city; the fact that the two of them have been trying for years and yet still not any closer to their dreams; the possibility that the shoebox of an apartment both Xiao Xiao and Jian Qing are living in will be all there is to them for the rest of their lives all takes a toll on their still relatively new relationship.
Towards the end of Xiao Xiao and Jian Qing’s relationship, it is evident that life and their expectations of it has taken more of a toll on themselves than they would like to admit. The spirit that they once had towards life and their goals have been snuffed out through years of mediocrity and failure. That youthful hope that both Jian Qing and Xiao Xiao held close to heart at one point was all but gone.
They were both tired people, and their relationship is only adding more weight and are no longer making them happy. So in the end, Xiao Xiao and Jian Qing broke up.
EXPECTATIONS, TOO MUCH AND LACK THEREOF
At the start of the relationship, Xiao Xiao was a person who wanted stability. She wanted someone who could provide for her, who could buy a house in Beijing so that she could truly and finally call Beijing her home. That was the reason why she would go and date all these men who are much older than her, because they already have a secure income and a house.
However all of that went out the window the moment she find herself falling for Jian Qing. At that time, Jian Qing is just a 20-year-old who are living paycheck to paycheck, who could not give Xiao Xiao all the things that she’s been looking for in a partner. He vowed though. Jian Qing vowed that he would be rich one day, he would buy 30 houses in Beijing and gift one to her just because. He vowed that as long as she sticks by his side for now, he would become successful one day and give her the life she deserved.
“If at that time you had the courage to get on the train, I would’ve stayed with you forever”
As the relationship progresses and changes, both Xiao Xiao and Jian Qing also change with it. Xiao Xiao who were once so adamant about marrying a man who could provide for her financially, now couldn’t care less and has stopped making that a priority. For her, as long as she could be with Jian Qing, she’s happy. Jian Qing on the other hand however, have made Xiao Xiao’s dream his own and was getting more and more depressed that he’s not making an progresses whatsoever in life.
He wanted to give her the life of comfort and luxury, but he couldn’t even afford a better apartment for them to live in. Jian Qing put a lot of pressure on himself so that they could have a better future and that they could have a good life. However, from Xiao Xiao’s point of view, all she wanted was the two of them to be together and happy. And while neither of them did anything wrong, their different expectations of each other and on their relationship eventually pull them away from each other.
Another thing I would like to touch up on. In Us and Them, it’s not only the romantic love that was being brought to light but also familial love as well.
As an asian myself, I have to say that I relate on a deeper level on how Jian Qing treats his father. In the movie, there are a lot of times where he would be speaking a tad bit rudely towards his father who he only visits once a year. Even as someone who understands Jian Qing’s point of view, every time I see how he talks to his father––be it in person or on the phone––I always subconsciously wish that he would be kinder. Speak softer, be more attentive.
With asians, it is not easy for us to show emotions towards our family. The love is there of course, but it was not always spoken out loud. Just like the viewers know that Jian Qing really do love his father and would do anything for him even though at times his actions contradicts with that. On top of that it also showed the generation gap between Jian Qing and his father. Life in Jian Qing’s generation is so much more different than how it was back when his father was young that it was hard for them to communicate and connect.
When he was in his 20s, Jian Qing would always think that his father doesn’t know a lot of things being that Jian Qing now is living in the capital and his father has always lived in the country side his whole life. However later in the years once Jian Qing grows older, he eventually realized just how much more than his father knew and regretted not talking to him more when he could.
A decade or so after Xiao Xiao and Jian Qing separated, they met again coincidentally when they were on a flight back to Beijing. Same as how it was the first time they met, the flight was cancelled due to bad weather and they ended up in a hotel room together for the night.
Since the day they broke up, they have had minimum contact. It was then that Xiao Xiao found out that Jian Qing has already gotten married and now has a child. Of course, there were talks of regrets. There were talks of what ifs. But life goes on and it seems, Jian Qing has long moved on from his once upon a time dream of growing old with Xiao Xiao even though his heart is still hers.
“If I weren’t the only person who made you happy, I would definitely be upset.”
Looking back, maybe they were meant to break up. Maybe had Xiao Xiao not left him that night, it would not have lit that fire in him to get himself together and figure his life out. Maybe had Xiao Xiao stayed, he would never have been as successful as he was, always bumming around being depressed.
Maybe her leaving was the best thing that could have happened to Jian Qing. Maybe…maybe not. If only we could see through all the possible outcomes, wouldn’t life be so much more simpler that way?
I think, Us and Them will be go down as one of my favorite movie. There is something about it that is so simple, so true to real life that is unsettling yet at the same time comforting.
Us and Them is definitely not a movie I would recommend if you’ve just gotten through a break up. Your girl watched it 2 weeks after her breakup, and let me tell you, the ugly crying was real. The feeling of emptiness right after is real too. So learn from this dumbass who decided to re-watch this movie right after a break up and run far far away from this film if you’ve just been through one. Unless, you’re looking for a good cry, then by all means, proceed right ahead.
That’s how it is with life sometimes, huh? Right person, wrong time, wrong place. As humans, there is only so much we could do before we have to let go, for our own sakes. Cry if you are sad, feel your emotions. But after, you have to pick yourself back up again and continue on trudging. Life, as much as we think 80-something-years is long, is short. A blink of an eye, and we’ll be 50 before we know it. Enjoy it while you’re here and don’t take things too seriously.
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