Initial Impressions: Chinese Drama “A River Flows to You”

A River Flows to You <流淌的美好時光> is the latest Chinese drama seeking to take viewers on an emotional ride through young adulthood. The drama explores the challenges of young adulthood, break-ups, illness, and dysfunctional families. The premiere episode is promising and may continue to hold viewers’ interest despite its length of 52 episodes.

Led by popular actor Ray Ma (马天宇) and actress Zheng Shuang (郑爽), the supporting cast is comprised of young and fairly new supporting artistes Chai Biyun (柴碧云), Wang Yongfeng (王永峰), Zhou Chengao (周澄奥) and Zhu Yan Manzi (朱颜曼滋).

The story follows Qi Ming (Ray Ma) and Yi Yao’s (Zheng Shuang) changing relationship from friends to lovers throughout college and in the workforce. Though neighbors on the same street, the two live in vastly different family environments, with Qi Ming from a wealthier and loving family while Yi Yao is often verbally abused by her alcoholic single mother. The first episode immediately establishes their differences in personality, as everyone besides Qi Ming deems Yi Yao and her mother as problematic and should not be interacted with. Qi Ming on the other hand, is well-liked by his classmates and neighbors because of his good looks and grades.

Ray is well-cast as Qi Ming with his attractive features and calm demeanor. He speaks in a gentle tone and shows support for Yi Yao through his actions. His fringe haircut and simple casual style gives him a soft aura and simple clean-cut feeling.

Yi Yao is played by Zheng Shuang, who usually is a typecast for naïve characters in romantic comedies. She portrays this pessimistic yet paradoxically hopeful character quite suitably. Through her thin frame and preference for dark-colored clothing, she cultivated a gloomy disposition that gets misunderstood easily. A noteworthy aspect to her character and drama is Yi Yao’s inner monologue. They are possibly not representative of all youth, but relatable in many ways and reveals the inner conflicts and struggled emotions experienced by the youth.

The melancholic instrumental piano music inserted during times of Yi Yao’s sad moments intensifies her emotions and the weight of the scenes, adds to viewers’ empathy for her struggles similar to the realities of life.

A notable scene in A River Flows to You is when Qi Ming comes to cheer up Yi Yao in the park at night in the first episode. Despite their bickering, it is evident that Qi Ming cares for Yi Yao and she is also comfortable with his presence. It is a heart-warming and comfortable scene to watch, and played with ease by Ray and Shuang, as the pair are also good friends in real life.

Overall, the first episode of A River Flows in You delivered enough character intrigue and easy chemistry between Ray and Zheng Shuang. However, the foreboding music and angsty plot give an impression that the drama may have a sad or open ending. It is recommended for those who enjoy slice of life dramas, and are moved by a romance that is constantly challenged by other commitments in life.

A “River Flows to You” Trailer

This review is written by Minna for

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  1. “Initial Impressions” is a new feature at JayneStars where our writers will personally watch and review new trendy dramas.

    If you’ve seen “A River Flows to You”, please join in the discussion of what you think of the drama so far.

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