First Impressions of In Time With You with Ariel Lin and Bolin Chen

What can I say about episode 1 of In Time With You? I’m not sure throwing around superlatives like bon bons really gets to the crux of the experience of watching this drama. It’s not merely a wonderful and excellent cinematic work, it’s genuinely introspective without being precocious, realistic without being plodding. Episode 1 toggled expertly between the past and the present, and by the end I feel like I’m already familiar with these characters.

My sole dilemma with this drama is simply that I don’t know how to “write” about it. It doesn’t lend itself to recapping, not unless I want to work my fingers to the bone translating the exquisite dialogue and describing the impeccable camera work plus the across-the-board phenomenal acting. Some dramas are meant to be watched as a group, complete with spazzing and discussions. I don’t feel that way about ITWY, a drama that makes me want to sit alone with a cup of expresso and rewatch it in peace and quiet. There is not a missed step anywhere with ITWY, a drama that doesn’t appear to have a plot, but instead simply tells a story.

What’s striking about ITWY is how immediately formed the characters are the moment you meet them. Living, breathing, three-dimensional characters that are not hand-picked to populate this drama and play a role. These are people that feel flawed, with edges, staggered baggage and subdued reactions. Nothing feel forced, everything feels slightly too real to elicit the typical broad TW-drama presentations of exaggerated characters and situations.

Ariel Lin‘s character of Chen You Qing is a very tough heroine to like, much less love. I think the irony of the title which translated to “I might not love you” is that the man who says that to her is perhaps the only man capable of loving her. That man is Lee Da Ren, played by Bolin Chen, her classmate since high school, and best friend for life. She wants to keep their relationship just the way it is, and he’s incapable of ever crossing that line despite how very obvious it is to everyone that he sees her as more than a platonic friend.

The set up is simple and age-old, but the execution feels honest and even a touch too uncomfortably real at times. You Qing’s workplace bitchy co-workers, encounter ever youthful and/or entitled people in life, the general feeling of being worn down from the adult world and missing the simplicity of a time when it was just the boys versus the girls.

I especially loved the scenes of You Qing and Da Ren in high school, with the rivalry between the boys and the girls being so awkwardly funny. I about laughed my head off during the mascot vote (the bulldog v.s the princess cat), and earlier when the boys all imagined themselves competing in the school athletic competition wearing a pink cat mascot on their athletic gear.

ITWY debuted with 1.41 in ratings, which is solid for FTV, but far below it’s main competition Office Girls, which broke 4 already by it’s 5th episode (it hit 4.16 to be specific). I believe the ratings accurately reflect the appeal of both dramas – OG is a fast and wonderfully charming work drama with all the TW-drama flourishes, while ITWY is…..not.

The pace of this drama is very measured, not slow per se, but very steady and melancholy almost. Watching the drama, I come away not wondering what happened or what’s going to happen, but instead just absorbing who these people are and how they interact with each other. I love how the drama spent an entire episode setting up You Qing and Da Ren’s lives, saving their first face-to-face interaction for the end of the episode.

In many ways this drama has shades of Goodbye Solo, with people who talk like real people, and their stories being really so mundane and ordinary, but made interesting because of how it’s presented. Not much happened in the way of plot in episode 1, which had You Qing waking up to her 30th birthday and ending with her coming home after a very long day complete with fears of time chasing her and worries that she’s too old to change her personality and get a guy who will love her for who she is, warts and all.

I feel so honored to be watching Director Winnie‘s talented and seemingly effortless camera work paired with this rich story as acted by a superb cast. Even relative newbie Jassie Chen is quite solid as the airline intern who has a crush on Da Ren. The drama looks pretty but not overly glossy, striking the right balance of visual intrigue with a touch of worn comfort.

Ariel really is head and shoulders at the top of her class amongst TW-actresses. Watching her onscreen, she IS You Qing, all arrogance masking insecurity, much too honest, and afraid of failure in life and love yet unable to judge her own faults. Bolin is easing himself into the role, and so far he’s nailing his 17 year old self better than his adult incarnation.Β This drama manages to capture the mood and concerns of being either 17 and 30 perfectly, and it’s easy to see why 17 year old You Qing and Da Ren grew up to be who they are now at 30.

If it seems like I’m not as enthusiastic about ITWY as some other dramas I’ve loved recently, it’s simply because ITWY elicits a different emotion of love from me. It doesn’t make me giddy or frantic with want, it doesn’t make me chafing to talk it about, it simply makes me want to savor and cherish it. I’ve compared this drama to reading a novella, but perhaps the better description is that it’s a collection of short stories about a group of people. They live their lives, fall in and out of love, their friendships ebb and flow, and along the way certain moments are captured in writing, like snapshots in a photo album. And watching the drama is like flipping through the photo album of their (and triggering memories of our own) lives. It’s not suited to talk about, but I highly recommend watching this drama for yourself if the story or the actors appeal to you. You won’t be disappointed.

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First Impressions of In Time With You with Ariel Lin and Bolin Chen — 33 Comments

  1. Where is the “like” button when you need one? I LOVE your write-up about your first impression on ITWY! And yes, I am so gonna watch this cause I have fallen in love with the characters ever since the preview! .. and also since it is Ariel’s final drama :'( ! *support support*
    I am guessing I will love this drama. So, hopefully it does deliver! πŸ™‚

  2. I don’t know but why do I feel that TW or Chinese drama lacks a lot of creativity, especially for its main plot.

    Drunken to love you is totally ripping of What Happens in Vegas while this one is ripping of Made of Honor. And their highest rating dramas always about knocked up!!

    Seriously, I miss MVP Lover days. At least nobody got pregnant in that drama.

    • LOL. So anything that remotely resembles a Hollywood movie automatically copied it now?
      Drunken to Love You is a sequel/spin-off of the 2008 drama Fated to Love You (aired before premiere of What Happens in Vegas), totally not ripping off anything.
      I am not sure many Taiwanese people even heard of Made of Honor. It was successful but not really that big. Plus, best friends falling love were never a novel idea. This drama and that movie have significant differences in plot.
      Hollywood is not superior to any other entertainment industry. The only thing it got going is its piles of money.

  3. I must admit I love ITWY and I’m loving the characters of You Qing and Da Ren. Ariel and Bolin acted really well. I was sucked in by the long preview and couldn’t wait for its premier on Sep-18. Watched it on-line with constant buffering and got to watch it again today. I am totally enjoying this drama and look forward to the 2nd episode this Sunday.

  4. Okay, chingu, I only have time for one drama. What’s it gonna be? Bu bu jing xin or this one? I already snagged bbjx cos I was set on watching that one, but now you’re tempting with this. Ahh, decisions!

    • BBJX. ITWY is a slow mood piece. I can stop watching ITWY (not that I will) whereas I can’t stop watching BBJX. Both are excellent dramas of completely different genres so cannot be compared. But if you have time right now for one, do BBJX and save ITWY for a long weekend marathon. BBJX will be done airing all 35 episodes in another week.

      • Consider it done then! *g* Btw, I’ll be watching the hardsubbed version that has appeared a few days ago cos streaming is just not doable for. I expect eps will be released at a more sedate pace.

  5. I am being wowed with the Taiwanese dramas lately.. Definitely going to add this to my list to watch after Material Queen finishes… Thank you for this great post!! πŸ˜€

  6. I love best friends turned lovers plot.. I will definitely have it in my to-watch list. Are there any other similar ones (other than 9e2o)?

  7. I loved ITWY’s first episode! And I’m glad that it’s different from other TW dramas.
    I’m sick of unrealistic and exaggerated facial expressions, because I want to watch a drama with real people and not anime-like characters. xD

  8. Since you mentioned the first interaction between You Qing and Da Ren, I felt I HAD to discuss it here, since I absolutely loved it–I loved the (symbolic) fact that they didn’t need any words whatsoever to communicate, as well as how much the meeting basically summarized their relationship … he’s waiting for her, she’s busy saving the world elsewhere.

  9. I love the way you describe ITWY. I watched together with a friend, and we absolutely loved it, but we kind of struggled with how to discuss it after we were finished. I feel silly just saying “It was so *good*”, but I don’t really know how to put it into words. My friend and I discussed a little bit, and then we just sat there in comfortable silence, absorbing and musing over the first episode. It’s pretty subtle, so I didn’t notice its effects on me while I was watching, but I think it’s a drama that will be floating around in my subconscious for quite some time. I keep getting this urge to go back and watch it again, particularly certain scenes.

    Unless something magical happens, I don’t see ITWY getting stellar ratings any time soon, partly because it’s very subtle, and partly because it’s not what idol drama (or even daily soap opera) watchers are used to. I hope it does well and that a lot of people watch it and enjoy it, because it’s so worthwhile. Kudos to everyone involved for making the drama flow “just right”: Winnie for directing, Mag Hsu for writing the script, the cast for acting well, the crew, etc. etc. I can’t get over this feeling after watching it. *runs off to help sub*

  10. Thanks captain! I really like ITWY, at the moment much better than DTLY in its first episode (which I only watched later after finished w/ eps 3&4 – after much spazz fm captain K) – and yes, though I haven’t watched much of Aril’s work, I must admit she is REALLY good. LIke you, I am happy just strolling into the story – I think it’s a very predictable ending but nonetheless – supreme acting so… recommendation accepted! BBJX is finishing soon? woaaah ….. ok .. will watch out for that one … I need it to finish before starting πŸ™‚

  11. I just watched it, and it is so good. You Qing is actually a very likable character, I admire how she stands up for what she believes in. And I love the lion analogy. It’s just like the tone of the drama– thoughtful and introspective, without losing its warm and humorous touch.

    Ariel is so natural as You Qing. But Bolin’s portrayal lacked the gravitas of a 30 year-old, he was kinda the same in both the teenage and adult scenes.

    I’m planning to rewatch it already πŸ™‚

  12. This reminds me so much of kdrama 9 Ends 2 Outs which was very slice of life too. Ariel is spot on as You Qing with her brash confidence yet saddened insecurities about her age. I think Bolin Chen is doing fine as Da Ren, I kind of like that his 30 yr old self is not far from his 17 yr old self… its a nice contrast to Ariel’s You Qing who has changed alot from her younger self.

    Oh, how I wish you’d recap this… seems like a good series!

  13. It is only epidosde one but I sense this might become my most loved TW drama. There is something very sublime in it. I love everything about this episode: the directing (DIrector Winnie after all), the acting of main and supporting cast, the seamless flow between past and present. I never thought the Arjoe chemistry will ever be overtaken until seeing how comfortable Ariel is with Bolin (never watched him before though having the Blue Gate DVD for years). Also, this is the first TW drama that I want to re-watch immediately after the first viewing.

  14. I just finished watching the first episode and I really love it to the max. Can’t wait for the next episode. Love the chemistry between Ariel and Bolin.

  15. I love this drama. Just watched first episode. It’s really hard to recap, because I want to include every detail. I am so excited to see how this progresses. Already addicted.

  16. Just watched the 1st ep,i LOVED it!!i watched Sunny Happiness and Drunken To Love You and i have to say that ITWY has the best ep.The 1st ep focused more on Ariel’s character,she is amazing and i hope we will see more about Li Da Ren

  17. Just a confession: I’ve tried to start watching this three times … and I can’t. I start thinking about this “probably” being Ariel’s last and I don’t want to miss a thing. I cry. It’s ridiculous. I want to savour this show, I want to be fair to it, but I find myself pre-loving it (which makes me a lousy critic). So …

    I’m waiting, on myself. I think maybe what I need to do is wait until it is over and then start it: I need to have no distractions of any other dramas or any real-life drama, and just spend a slow week not missing a thing.

    Ariel’s just got into my heart over the years, with all these amazing performances and characters, and even herself, really, in interviews and appearances. I don’t want to say goodbye. I don’t want to start saying goodbye. I feel like a 3 year old pitching a fit.

  18. I finally have gotten around to starting this and just finished the first episode. Your description of sitting alone and just enjoying this show with a cup of espresso is spot on. I love that so far it seems like just a slice of life type of story versus one with a complex and twisted plot with evil characters and ulterior motives. I’m the biggest sucker for friends-turned-something more stories and this one has already captured my heart. The characters all feel so real and not overacted, which I love. Perhaps the beginning theme of turning 30 and time chasing you (…and starting to hear Ah-Yi/Ma’am wayyy more often than JiehJieh/Miss) strikes a personal chord with me too…

    Usually when my friends ask ‘so…what’s the drama about?’ it takes me so long to explain because there are all these specific details I feel like I need to include for the plot to make some kind of sense. But with this one, I feel that all I need to say is that it’s the journey of 2 lifelong best friends finding their way to each other. It’s a drama where we know how it’s going to end (ok I HOPE I know how it’s going to end)…but it’s how they get there that matters.

    And btw, can I say how much I love the opening credits. Not only is the song perfect in tone and meaning, but the way all the character interactions are edited in is a nice echo of the drama itself.

    Oh, one last thing… Bolin has adorb dimples and his chemistry with Ariel is just amazing. Who knew that I could potentially love her with someone other than Joe?!? lol πŸ˜€

    If they keep up this tone for the drama, it’s going to be a keeper for sure.

  19. sooooooooooooooo right!!!! ITWY is just the perfect cup of tea on a breezy Sunday. You want to relax and take it in for its beauty and simplicity. I love Bolin Chen as an actor, very talented and comfortable, and I was worried how he would fair in a TW-drama because they tend to be over-acted and cheesy and I don’t want others to perceive him as a horrible actor. But I’m so glad he made a good choice in this drama. I absolutely think this drama could be the beginning of the end of cheesy idol T-drama (haha here’s to me hoping). But I have to admit that as much as I can’t imagine anyone else playing Le Da Ren, I can’t imagine anyone else playing You Qing. Ariel Lin IS You Qing, and thank goodness for that. I think both actors have such amazing chemistry that the story is brought to life and feels so real. I want others to appreciate the beauty of this drama because it’s that good lesson you don’t want anyone to miss.

  20. ITWY…..the best taiwanese drama……Iam so glad a lot of people appreciate the beauty of this drama .. congratulation to all the cast from job well done especially to ariel lin and bolin chen they’re grate actor , I love the amazing chemistry .Can’t wait for there movie to be sub in english. love ariel and bolin from all your fans here in UK

  21. This is by far the best Taiwanese drama I have ever watched. I am not too much of a Taiwanese drama fan as I think Taiwanese characters tend to over-act, too cutesy to be real… kinda what you’d watch if you have nothing else better to do. But ITWY do elicit a warm stirring within the hearts of viewers. It is a beautifully directed drama, characters are real, subtle acting yet chemistry between the two leads is so tangible. Two good friends falling in love – old story you’d say – but I think this one’s beautifully crafted. Great script, great acting. Worth your time….:-))

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