A belated review for one of my favorite dramas of the past year, My Best Friend’s Story 流金岁月. The series by director Shen Yan is a rare Chinese modern series that romanticizes women and the relationship between them with an almost wuxia-like camaraderie. The women are imperfect. They can be greedy and worldly, idealistic and naive, ambitious and ruthless, old-fashioned and spoiled, but they’re also humans who grow and change and who are there for each other. They can be in-laws, sisters, friends, love rivals, or business rivals, but they rarely have innate jealousy for other women. Instead, unspoken loyalty (义气) is prevalent throughout most of the female and some male characters. Combined with gorgeous outfits and some enlightened casting choices, the drama is definitely one of my recent favorites.
Liu Shishi and Ni Ni star as Jiang Nansun and Zhu Suosuo, two best friends who seem to be polar opposites but are bound by their loyalty and willingness to give everything to people they love. While Jiang Nansun’s plotline is better written in both character development for its star and her relationships, Zhu Suosuo’s line succeeds with its plethora of excellent actors who added so much complexity to their characters. .
For the former, there is Nansun’s mom, who is forced to step out of a loveless marriage to live for herself. There’s her grandmother, who must learn to live in a new century and world where she is neither upper-class nor rich. There’s her aunt, the seemingly perfect wiseman who has some regrets and fear of her own. There’s also her two completely opposite love rivals, both of whom live for themselves rather than their romantic interests. Then there’s of course Jiang Nansun, the protected architect student who grew up with dreams, but takes on the burden of her father’s debts. She is idealistic but never unrealistic, and must help her entire family to move on. Each character has their own dreams and insecurities, and the series manage to flush out so many diverse female characters in one story.
Ni Ni brings the enrapturing charm necessary for Zhu Suosuo to work. Zhu Suosuo really only works if you believe that people easily fall for her and I would definitely believe it because it’s Ni Ni. Every time she’s on the screen my eyes are just glued to her. It helps that her 170+ outfits all look amazing in the show. She is both unabashedly in pursuit of material goods and willing to give up everything to pursue a potential home of her own, sometimes to her own detriment.
While most of her interactions are with less-well-written men, the casting was so good that they made extremely lovable and dimensional characters out of what could’ve been caricatures. There’s Dong Zijian, who convinced the director to change the pompous and gaudy trust fund kid to a timid and insecure trust fund kid who loves Zhu Suosuo but is unable to break free from his mother’s holds. There’s Wang Xiao, who sells an idealized work friendship driven by a common interest. There’s Tian Yu, who plays what could’ve been an annoying gossip to become a conflicted frenemy. Then there’s Chen Daoming, who was given the near impossible task of selling a relationship between a woman and a man who could be his father to an audience who wanted none of that, took two versions of the script (one that wrote his feelings for her as fatherly and one as romantically), and somehow combined them to make it work. Their interactions with Ni Ni are always a treat to watch due to the nuances everyone bring to their relationships.
Also, Ni Ni has really perfected the art of crying on screen. There have been scenes in the show where I was behind and had no idea what was going on but scrolled past a clip on Weibo, and then immediately teared up upon seeing her getting ready to cry. She’s that good.
My Best Friend’s Story is a joy to watch for its nuanced characterization of its huge cast and their relationships, the gorgeous costumes, and a cast that truly elevates the series.