It’s tough for China’s ‘four dan
’ actresses (the top leading ladies: Zhang Ziyi, Zhou Xun, Xu Jinglei, Zhao Wei) to break away from typecasting. This month Zhao – co-star of Shaolin Soccer
and Red Cliff
, and commonly known as Vicki Zhao – attempts it with her directorial debut, So Young
, a drama about a young woman’s emotional struggle with two men she meets years after their college love triangle disintegrates.
Originally trained as a school teacher in Anhui province, Zhao was first drawn into film after working as an extra on a movie shot in her hometown. Enthralled with acting, she worked her way to the Beijing Film Academy, from which she graduated in 2000. Zhao returned to the BFA in 2008 to complete a master’s in directing, and So Young forms her thesis project.
Based on a best-selling novel written by Xin Yiwu, the story follows 18-year-old Zheng Wei (Yang Zishan) who enrols in university to remain close to her childhood crush, Lin Jing (Han Geng). When Lin moves abroad to pursue his education, life loses its lustre for Zheng until she meets the dashing but aloof Chen Xiaozheng (Mark Chao), who also leaves her to study abroad. Years later, when Zheng is a successful young professional type, the two heartthrobs resurface only to upset her comfortable reality once more.
Not one to downplay her own talents, Zhao says So Young
is a tribute to her generation. ‘I’d like to devote this film to everyone out there who had a similar youth… It’s a memory shared by those who were born on the Chinese Mainland between the 1970s and early ’80s,’ she told a press conference. In case we doubted the integrity of her filmmaking, she adds that though her professors at BFA had only seen a rough cut, they gave it 99 out of 100 – a pretty solid endorsement for any actor-turned-director.
So Young is in cinemas from Friday 26.