Better Days (2019)

As bullying in and outside of school intensifies for a teenage girl, she finds that she has few resources and feels alone in the world. As things escalate even further, a teenage boy who looks like an unlikely protector takes her under his wing so that she can get her schooling, take her placement test, and do well in life.

Based on the novel “In His Youth, In Her Beauty” by Jiuyue Xi, with a screenplay by Wing-Sum Lam, Yuan Li, and Yimeng Xu, and co-written by Nan Chen, the film is directed by Derek Tseng and bring forth a very serious issue that more teens than most would want to admit face, the issue of bullying. Here the situation is shown as dire as the girl’s mother is working in another town and she stayed behind for her schooling. This girl alone in the town and seemingly alone at school finally finds some solace in the presence of someone who knows better than anyone else how being alone and having no hope is. Together, they show their strength, build each other up, and protect each other, something they do not always in the best of ways, but in the best ways they can think of. The story is built to give an intimate look into a friendship based on necessity. It shows that when all is hopeless to one, a simple gesture can save them.

The cast here is led by <a href=”https://cinema-crazed.com/blog/2017/07/13/this-is-not-what-i-expected-2017-new-york-asian-film-festival-2017/”>Dongyu Zhou</a> and Jackson Yee, respectively playing Chen Nian and Xiao Bei, the two teens at the center of everything. Their work here is on point with performances that grab viewers and don’t let go. Their work shows vulnerability and just the right amount of emotion for any given scene. Their chemistry also works really well for their parts and how the connection evolves between them. Their work had to be this good for the film to have any sort of impact and they clearly took the parts to heart and the film’s message as their own to put across successfully.

Better Days is a carefully and artfully crafted tale of bullying, loneliness, sorrow, and belonging with cinematography by Jing-Pin Yu and editing by Yibo Zhang make the film look fantastic and appropriate. There are a few hard to watch scenes and their work makes them almost bearable to watch. Those scenes are needed here to make their points within the story, so the way they are filmed matters and helps them come across the right way.

Better Days is a touching, vulnerable, sometimes frustrating (for good reasons), film that brings hard subjects to forefront and makes something out of them that not only pass a message, but also show a lot of heart in the process. Better Days is a film that makes viewers feel and gives them something to think about at the same time. It’s also one that can really be something to get into as things develop and the viewer can really get attached to the underdogs.