As Jiu Yehui, author of Fleet of Time, wrote in her novel’s preface, the book is meant to resonate especially with the post-1980s generation. The novel’s movie adaptation, which is to be released on Dec 5, targets the same demographic.
The story begins with Chen Xun (Eddie Peng) and Fang Hui (Ni Ni) meeting during their first year of senior high school, the time when love’s kindred spirit first begins to awaken. Peng’s character possesses all the characteristics of a high school hunk. He’s got a handsome face, he’s class monitor, and he’s an excellent basketball player. Ni Ni’s character on the other hand is plain, introverted and sensitive.
故事伊始，刚上高一的陈寻（彭于晏 饰）与方茴（倪妮 饰）初相见，他们心中爱的种子一点点生根发芽。陈寻拥有所有高中时“男神”的必备特质：长相帅气、担任班长、还打得一手好篮球。倪妮饰演的方茴却相对平凡，内向而敏感。
You can probably guess what happens next. A crush develops between the two. They begin dating and share their first kiss, and then they begin to quarrel before finally drifting apart from each other.
The closing song plays over a dramatic scene in which Chen, with tears in his eyes, looks upon his love for the first time after a long separation. The audience is left to wonder whether the two get back together again.
The film stands on themes of youth, first love and friendship, helping it to rouse the collective memory of many in the post-1980s generation. We’re also taken back to China’s successful bid for the 2008 Olympic Games and the national soccer team’s first appearance in the 2002 World Cup, both of are hazy memories in the minds of post-1980s kids.
The film’s soundtrack is also worth mentioning. When (from TV series Return of the Pearl Princess) and I Want to Shout I Love You (from Japanese animation Slam Dunk) played, I was taken back to my high school days.
As a fan of the novel, I couldn’t help but grumble at how the movie focuses less than the book on the couple’s time together in high school. It was during this time that they were most idealistic, believing they could stay together forever if they just put in enough effort. In not spending enough time with the characters in their youth, the movie forfeits some of the emotional weight of the novel.
There’s nothing profound or even thought-provoking about Fleet of Time. But is it right to even expect that from a young adult movie? When Fang Hui stood courtside cheering for her basketball star, and when the five classmates promised to remain friends forever by carving their names into a tree, I saw a little bit of myself. That, I think, is just what the film aims to do for everyone.