I don’t remember the last time I cried this much over make-belief, fairy-tale characters and story-telling. Over the years of drama watching, there were many, many moments where my heart fluttered, my voice cracked and the tears threatened but rarely over and over, and over again.
And yet, Loving, Never Forgetting managed to do just that.
A story of a one-night stand that changed the lives of the Li and Xiang families.
A love at first sight encounter with Zhong Mou leads Wu Tong to fangirl over the dreamy and handsome up and coming businessman. She takes an internship at his company and an opportune meeting between the two leads to a passionate night of drunken lovemaking. He dismisses her in the morning hoping never to see her again. That he cannot recognize Wu Tong a few short years later begs the question, “Is Zhong Mou such a player that he would forget all his sexual partners that easily?” One of the few head scratching moment for me.
Fast forward five years, we meet Wu Tong, a single mother quietly living a life she’s long resigned to. Disowned by her upright father for getting pregnant out of wedlock, Wu Tong survived the last 5 years on her own and with the help of her best friend, Mei Ling. Despite her circumstances Wu Tong raised Tong Tong with love and respect without any bitterness towards his absentee father whom she lies, is off fighting the baddies with Harry Potter.
The opening scene introduces us to a shrewd and callous Zhong Mou closing a deal and gaining the upper-hand against his older rival. From this first frame, we see a cool and collected man used to winning at the game of deals. The scene later cuts into the outside stage where his movie star girlfriend, Mandi, is waiting for the ribbon cutting ceremony.
This opening scene builds up to the ultimate cliff-hanger where Zhong Mou meets the son he never knew. The moment that changes everything.
Just like that we are thrust into a tale of custody fights, gripping parent-child relationships, sibling rivalry and power struggles. The pacing is excellent. Show offers a nice blend of introspective moments between mothers and sons. Similarly, underneath the surface, we see simmering bondings between the fathers and the sons, foreign and yet familiar — quiet, scary but endearing.
Jerry Yan is superb playing the aloof and tough businessman Zhong Mou but his skillful acting makes me empathizes with him despite the cold facade he puts up in the custody battle, yanking his son away from the only mother he knows and loves. The tenderness he shows towards Tong Tong in the moment of need is pure magic.
Even though Zhong Mou grew up without experiencing maternal or paternal warmth, he is innately capable of seeking deep within himself to shower love for a son that is suddenly thrust into his otherwise lonely life. Sworn never to fall in love and marry, his impenetrable wall of bachelorhood gets melted brick by brick by the generous, loving, and open-minded Wu Tong. Initially skeptical of her motives, he keeps her at arm’s length but finds himself increasingly drawn to the woman whom, despite not remembering their moment of intimacy, bore him a son.
Tong Liya is perfect in the role of Wu Tong. She’s strong-willed but in a feminine way. Her maternal instincts are powerful: protective, unselfish but realistic. Some viewers feel she’s feeble which is somewhat true given that she’s naive to a fault but her flaws are understandable and does not detract from the overall story arc. She makes me feel her pain and I cried alongside her when she has to part with Tong Tong, struggling to balance her own needs against what’s best for Tong Tong.
As a family melodrama with its angelic female character, Wu Tong is someone that believes in the good of everyone and naively thinks she has the power to effect change. Despite being told time and time again, that 30 years of hate and bitterness just doesn’t go away overnight, she continues to march on inside her own cocoon thinking somehow she can be the catalyst that will propel family unity.
The chemistry between Zhong Mou and Wu Tong is off the charts earth shattering. I don’t know how many times I re-watched the scene in episode 16, the first time Zhong Mou broach the elusive subject that he is falling for her. This OTP is undeniably a match made in heaven.
Tong Tong is adorable and just perfect for this role, maybe too perfect (said some) but then again, I didn’t mind that at all. His delightful interactions with Wu Tong and Zhong Mou warm my heart and put a smile on my face.
As for the supporting casts, I must say this is one of those few rare times when I’m hard pressed to complain about any character. Each has his/her own honest story to tell. Kudos goes to Personal Assistant, sidekick extraordinaire, Lin Jian Dong whose loyalty and affable demeanor gives the show light-hearted moments. His dorky affection for Liang Yue Qi is subtle, like a tree-lined vista, providing much needed shades to its oblivious passersby. The most villainous of the characters, Xiang Jun, sent shivers down my spine for a few episodes, making me feel the hate for him brewing but the hate slowly withers away as the show winds down towards redemption. There isn’t a moment where I felt like fast forwarding. Instead show kept me up late and made me waste away whole weekends drooling for what’s next.
If I had one complaint, it would be the ending episodes which felt like scene fillers. I could easily do without these last few “dramas” — my heart did not pound as much as it did in the beginning as Zhong Mou overcomes one crisis after another. The ending could have been wrapped up a few episodes earlier.
Nevertheless, a heartfelt melodrama that touches two generations and the bad blood that binds the Li and Xiang families, and ultimately a woman who wants to unite them all. One that moved my soul. A must-watch. (9/10)