Sunday, May 23, 2021

Netflix: Review of GO AHEAD: Flawed but Functioning Families

May 23, 2021

Li Haichao (Tu Songyan) just opened his noodle shop in an inner street in Xiamen. He was a widower who had one daughter named Li Jianjian (Cong Shang/ Seven Tan Songyun). Policeman Ling Heping (Zhang Xilin) just moved in to the apartment upstairs with his wife Chen Ting (Yang Tongshu) and their son Ling Xiao (Xu Wailuo/ Song Weilong). 

A divorced woman He Mei (Yuan Luna) who was introduced to Haichao by a matchmaker left her son He Ziqiu (Li Zhenzhen/ Steven Zhang Xincheng) with him when she suddenly decided to leave town. The three children grew up together very closely, treating each other as siblings until circumstances forced them to separate after the boys graduated from high school.

In the first two episodes, the three kids were still portrayed by child actors. By the third episode , they were already portrayed by the adult actors (acting as teenagers), with the child actors still making appearances in flashback scenes. High school issues and returning people from the kids' past reach a head up to Episode 10 when things blow up causing major conflicts and changes in the family dynamics. 

By the 12th and onward to the 40th episode, more "adulting" issues of the young people were being tackled, about their love lives, careers and independence. Jingjing is a sculptor with her own crafts shop, Ling Xiao is a dentist, while Ziqiu is a pastry chef with his own dessert cafe. Having been separated from each other for nine years, getting back to their previous closeness as siblings was not as easy as they thought. 

Issues of mental health are featured prominently in the story, particularly in the relationship of Ling Xiao and his mother, a source of drama from the first to the final episode. Chen Ting had been a disturbed individual since Ling Xiao was a child following a devastating family tragedy that left her psychologically damaged. Ling Xiao would battle an internal conflict of resentment and filial duty which would cause him anxiety and depression even in his adulthood. 

Aside from the three main characters, we also see more into the lives of Jingjing's close friends, journalist Qi Mingyue (Sun Yi) and actress Tang Can (He Ruixian), and their own strained relationships with their their well-meaning but domineering mothers who were still interfering in their lives. Mingyue's arguments with her mother Yuxiang (Sunny Hao)  arguments were very well-written and will resonate with most young people today.

Food was very much a part of their family life and it can get tempting to watch them eat. The nosy neighborhood gossips and matchmakers never went out of style. Divorce was spoken of frankly as an acceptable option for marriages on the rocks, and did not seem to carry the stigma it used to. It showed that long-distance online communication could not really maintain the closeness of relationships, but time can mend these broken bridges. 

Call me old-fashioned, but a certain romance between two characters was not too comfortable for me and I wish they did not have to force that in. Even if there was no moral or legal impediment for that relationship, it still gave me an uneasy feeling especially with their first kiss.  Anyhow, the well-acted series was a light-hearted yet insightful look into the attitudes, lifestyles and relationships of young people and their families in modern-day China. 8/10. 

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