Somewhere Only We Know is directed by Xu Jinglei (My Father and I) who also starred in the film and co-wrote it with Wang Shuo (their last collaboration was Dreams May Come) along with several other writers. The team create a heart-warming story that has all the elements of what one may come to expect within the romantic genre: it’s a blend of love affairs, drama and angst.
Jin Tian (Wang Likun) is a 30 year old woman who has had her life turned upside down. Her fiancé has broken up their engagement and her grandmother, Chen Lanxin, soon passes away. Overcome with grief and a broken heart, Jin decides to travel to Prague where her grandmother at one time in her life had lived. Jin decides to become a different person in Prague and creates a to-do list of things she would have never done before like getting a tattoo, bungee jumping, smoking a cigarette, becoming terribly drunk and having a one night stand.
She eventually gets sidetracked from her to-do list when she meets violinist, Peng Zeyang (Kris Wu), a single father taking care of his daughter and bipolar mother. Soon, she receives a call from the Czech Republic Embassy and is informed of a letter addressed to her grandmother in 1970 by a Dr. Josef Novak (Gordon Alexander). From this, she starts to trace her grandmother’s life in Prague, discovers her grandmother’s love for Josef and unknowingly begins her own love story in Prague.
Celebrated cinematographer, Mark Lee Ping Bin (In the Mood for Love, Norwegian Wood) beautifully captures the gorgeous Prague scenery during the day and the night. It’s presented in a way where you’re able to get a snapshot of Prague’s beauty but never does it overpower the storytelling in the film. Somewhere Only We Know’s story transitions between the past and present where Xu Jinglei plays the role of the younger Chen Lanxin in the grandmother’s storyline. Her story unfolds neatly and is so perfectly aligned with Jin’s present storyline that it’s easy to spot the similarities between both women’s views on love.
Wang Likun and Kris Wu share a sweet chemistry on screen and do a superb job with their roles. Wang Likun’s depiction of her character makes her an easily likable leading lady as she is someone who tries to do whatever it takes to make her happy despite being consistently reminded of her guilt and grievance towards her grandmother’s passing and the insecurities she feels from her fiancé leaving her. Seeing the character’s development while she’s in Prague is touching and elicits a proud response from the audience once you see how much the character grows, especially when she is forced to face her fiancé.
As for Kris Wu, I will admit my interest was piqued when I heard that a former EXO member was to have a starring role in this film. Being a fan of EXO, I tried not to raise my expectation towards the singer-turned-actor, but wished I lowered the bar because he could have exceeded it. For his debut film, the actor does an admirable job though there are some areas of his acting that he could work on. It will be certainly interesting to see how he grows as an actor if he continues down this career path.
Somewhere Only We Know is exactly the type of romantic drama movie that I would expect to see during the Valentine’s week. There was nothing extravagant to the plot but there doesn’t need to be as what remains is simply a sweet and at times poignant film that left me very content by the end of it all.