Han Yan brings us this touching story of Song Shiqiao (Angelababy), a young college student diagnosed with a terminal genetic condition, and her love affair with her old high school classmate Gong Ning (Mark Chao). The First Time is in fact a remake of the hit Korean film …ing, but this version is considerably more powerful in its ability to elicit an emotional connection from the audience, in no small part due to the synergies between the two leads.
The first half hour of the film progresses slowly, and is relatively banal unless you are a fangirl who loves the cancer-stricken, memory-loss inducing Korean drama genre. However, Han Yan brings an amazing plot twist about a half hour in, though any more detail would spoil the surprise for any audience who watches. However, it would be fair to say that the rest of the film does not progress as any classic romantic drama would, making it stand out among the peers in its class.
Angelababy naturally portrays the role of an innocent girl who chooses to not allow her medical condition to inhibit her naturally-happy personality. As her life-prolonging medication induces memory loss (a plot device borrowed from Korea), she records her thoughts in a cassette tape (welcome to the 20th century) for her lover Gong. Angelababy is one of my favorite actresses because of her ability to portray this role well – from her innocent, childish appearance (which likely earned her the nickname “baby” in her younger years), to her genuine smile, Angelababy exudes the youthful joy and hope that makes The First Time truly inspiring to watch.
Alongside the touching story of two young lovers reunifying, and their romantic exploits, is the story of the love and care of a mother for her ill daughter. Having already lost her husband, Shiqiao’s mother (Jiang Shang) goes to great lengths throughout the course of The First Time to ensure that her daughter has as fulfilling of a life as possible during her short time in the world.
The First Time presents the innocent kind of love story that makes one nostalgic for the simpler times in life; the kind of romance that may happen on in a schoolyard, before any worries of the “real world” come into play. Although the story feels short, The First Time is a truly touching story that is certain to melt the audience’s heart and warm one’s soul on a cold, wintery day.
The First Time (Chinese: 第一次)—China. Directed by Han Yan. First released June 2012. Running time 1hr 46min. Starring Angelababy, Mark Chao, and Jiang Shan.