Before we start, I want to say that I'm really happy to write about Lao Nan Hai aka Old Boy. I've been looking forward to watching it ever since I heard the great news and particularly when I heard that Ariel Lin and Liu Ye who haven't been in a drama for years would work together in this Chinese modern drama.
Many of us waited a whole year for this drama to finish airing. This isn't long compared to other C-dramas that sometimes take years to air in China so honestly, I'm more than delighted and I have to say that even though I've only watched approximately one third of the drama (19 episodes so far), I'm not disappointed. The production quality, acting, OST, and script are definitely to my liking and I'll explain why I'm enjoying it and why I think you should give it a try.
Old Boy revolves around Wu Zheng, a pilot with a high-flying job and enviable good looks. He is more than capable of taking responsibility for the lives of countless passengers but outside of work, he is tameless and free-spirited and basically a child at heart. His son named Xiao Han turns up out of the blue, followed by teacher Lin Xiao Ou who’s more than eager to help out. Needless to say, their arrival shakes up the life of the jet-setter, especially since Pilot and Teacher had met once before when they were abroad, and it wasn’t pretty.
The drama starts when Wu Zheng, an excellent pilot, and Lin Xiao Ou, an English teacher, first meet in Australia, and that's how their journey begins. After Wu Zheng comes back from his trip, he finds out he has a son called Xiao Han from a previous marriage. His life will suddenly change with his son's appearance, and even more so since Lin Xiao Ou is Xiao Han's homeroom teacher.
This article may contain very minor spoilers for the first third of the drama, but I tried my best to keep it spoiler-free.
The Main Characters
Liu Ye as Wu Zheng
Wu Zheng is a renowned pilot with great responsibilities, and he would take any risk to ensure the safety of his passengers. It's true that he loves his work but he's put under a lot of pressure which he never shows to his superiors, colleagues, friends, and family. He also has an immature side and as he often claims, he's a child at heart. This is probably a way for him to relax and escape from the pressure he's dealing with every day which is completely understandable.
→ Honestly, I really love Wu Zheng. He is certainly as grouchy as his son says but he's such a considerate, well-intentioned and sweet man, and even though he might sometimes be quick-tempered, he's a real gentleman. The other thing I appreciate is that he has principles and always stand by them; he would do anything for others, even if he has to go against his superiors.
Lin Ariel as Lin Xiao Ou
Lin Xiao Ou is a caring, sensitive, and independent woman living with her boyfriend's sister. She does have two "flaws": She's overly caring toward her pupils but she's also too naive which doesn't help her at all because she thinks that everyone around her is nice and only has pure intentions.
→ I would be lying if I said I don't find her annoying because sometimes, it justs gets on my nerves seeing how naive she is, to the point where she sounds stupid. It's only when she's facing the harsh reality that she realises how people can be fake and full of bad intentions. But I really do like that she's kind at heart and always wants what's the best for her students. She pushes them to study, she would even follow them home if she had to, so yes, she has an annoying side but this shows how caring and sensitive she is toward her students.
Hu Xian Xiu as Xiao Han
At first, he's presented as a spoilt brat, always complaining about tiny little things and blaming others for his wrongdoings. As the story progresses, we see a more sensitive, more responsible, and more understanding Xiao Han. Obviously, him losing his mum and his foster dad made him realise that he has to make some changes and that things can't only go the way he wants.
→ I'm sorry to say that I found him utterly irritating in the beginning and I didn't like the way he talked back to Wu Zheng. He's still a teen so it's understandable and after living and spending time with Wu Zheng, he'll get to see what real life is like and that it's full of compromises.
Lei Jia Yin as Shi Fei
Shi Fei is Wu Zheng's childhood friend and he knows everything about what's going on in Wu Zheng's life, thus, he often meddles in it. He's also a businessman and has a successful career.
→ Shi Fei is such a fun, eccentric and smiley character which is the reason I like him a lot. He brings a refreshing vibe to the drama. I'm always happy to see him around Wu Zheng and Xiao Han as he is of such great advice and help particularly to Xiao Han.
Guo Shu Tong as Ye Zi
Ye Zi is a lawyer and she kindly gives advice to the gullible Xiao Ou, her best friend with whom she shares a flat.
→ What I like about Ye Zi is that she's a loyal friend who would always support Xiao Ou and even go as far as seeking information for her. She's attentive and really caring.
Here are a few aspects of the drama I really love and reasons why I think you should give it a try if you are contemplating watching it:
We all know that Ariel Lin and Liu Ye have been playing in movies and dramas for almost two decades and that they always give powerful performances. It's been five years since Ariel Lin's last drama Prince of Lan Ling and four years since Liu Ye's last drama All Quiet in Beijing yet they manage to be at the top of their skills and convey emotions to the viewer.
For this drama, I have to say that Liu Ye's portrayal of Wu Zheng as a man with both responsible and childish sides is mind-boggling. As for Ariel Lin, as always, she simply mesmerises me with her charisma.
Not to mention Lei Jia Yin and Guo Shu Tong who are as good as the main leads and really give a breath of fresh air to the overall atmosphere of the drama. Hu Xian Xu playing 16-year-old Xiao Han is really convincing in his role. It's my first time seeing him in a drama and I'm not disappointed. The other actors are doing a great job, too.
THE SCRIPT & OST
I find the story quite well written, though there are some parts that I find unrealistic, e.g. the two main leads meeting in Australia and meeting again in China because circumstances force them to get involved in each other's lives. It is a drama after all and without these clichés, it wouldn't be as enjoyable anyway. But what I really appreciate about Old Boy is the touch of comedy here and there. I really like the tone of the drama which is comedy-oriented even though there are some dramatic elements added at certain moments.
This drama, without a doubt, offers great music. The opening is just wow and really addicting, I love it so much and I always feel like dancing while listening to it, haha. The songs are really nice, here you can listen to the Ending Credits, and to Liu Ye's song Fang Xia de Shi Hou to get a better taste of the OST.
FRIENDSHIP & BROMANCE
The friendships in this drama are what I like best and I couldn't write this article without mentioning the friendship between Lin Xiao Ou and Ye Zi as well as the wonderful and genuine bromance between Wu Zheng, his son, and Shi Fei.
I briefly mentioned above when I was describing the main characters that Ye Zi is a loyal friend and yes, she really is, and that's what makes Xiao Ou and Ye Zi's friendship so beautiful. Of course, their friendship is also based on honesty, care, and trust, and I can feel that when I see them together.
The bromance is simply magnificent, it's pure, beautiful, so funny and awkward but adorable at the same time, particularly that the kid is part of this weird but lovely friendship. What I love the most are their bickering moments. ;) In short, I find their interactions so genuine and funny and I have to admit that they often make me smile and laugh.
I'll let these screenshots speak for themselves but in one word, I find it breathtaking.
Unfortunately, there are certain things (though minor) that I find infuriating and frustrating in Old Boy and I wanted to list them to give you a better overview of the drama. (These might be minor spoilers for those who haven't watched the drama, though.)
Zhou Zhou is an important character in the drama as he's Xiao Han's best friend but he has such a clingy and crazy mother. She's not only delusional (clearly a psychopath, seriously) but very judgemental, paranoid, and impulsive. She's someone who sees everyone as her enemies. Ye Zi said it himself, she wants to control everything and above of all, her son's life. I'll stop here because she's literally driving me nuts and talking about her doesn't help, haha.
We also have Fei Wen Li who isn't as extreme as Zhou Zhou's mother but she's also really strange and not in a good way, she really likes intruding in other's houses (at least Wu Zheng's) without their permission and doing things that are none of her business. She can't seem to understand when Wu Zheng keeps telling her he doesn't love her and only sees her as a colleague or a sort of mei mei (little sister) as she continues pursuing him in a very unhealthy way and interfering carelessly with his private life. As you can see, she's a very special case, too!
Parents' involvement in the school system
This is something I noticed in Asian dramas in general which annoys me a lot because there's so much unfairness in those countries regarding school regulations. When a student creates one minor problem, other students' parents can easily make a ruckus in the school and ask for this student's expulsion. I don't think I've seen similar things in my country (and yet, things aren't always looking so good) and that's probably why I just can't help feeling frustrated at this system. Particularly when it isn't as serious as the parents make it sound. Plus, parents like the parents in Old Boy put a lot of pressure on teachers and even blackmail them.
I could definitely talk more about Old Boy but I don't want to make it too long (and boring) for you. I guess this drama inspires me a lot, not only because it has my all-time fave actress Ariel Lin in it and my favorite Chinese actor Liu Ye but also because I find the story really refreshing and fast-paced. Seriously, if all the episodes were subbed, I would have easily marathoned it in a week, but watching this drama slowly allows me to savour it completely. ♥
Thank you for reading!