China, 2017, colour, 2.35:1, 97 mins.
Director: Hui Yu 回宇.
College movie centred on rival student associations has lots of energy but is poorly organised.
Xigu University, somewhere in southern China, 2007. As soon as she arrives, first-year student Gu Yuexi (Huang Shijia), 18, is bullied for money by alpha female Bai Li (Hong Shuang) and then rejected by Community Alliance 社团联合会, the university’s elite student association led by Lin Xiao (Pan Chenlu). During military drills Gu Yuexi repeatedly faints, and is rescued by second-year student Liu Mengfan (Zhao Hongcheng), to whom she takes a liking. Fed up by being rejected from Community Alliance, and not favouring its elitist philosophy, she sets up her own Sacred Fire Sport Association 圣火运动联盟, which proves popular but is then banned by the university authorities. Instead she sets up a small group called Dream Circle 梦想圈, dedicated to young people realising their dreams, and is joined by geeky wannabe musician Zhang Yao (Ma Yi/Ma Yujiao) and Bai Li, with whom she is now friends. Bai Li sees Dream Circle as a way to avenge herself on her onetime BFF Xing Chen (Li Hanjun), who unfairly won the post of the university’s radio-station host over her and is now vice-head of Community Alliance. Looking for support from other student associations, Gu Yuexi first approaches the Football Association, led by the macho Si Nan (Yu Zheming), then the Drama Association, led by champion drinker Jiang Hu (Huang Jie), and finally the Archery Association, led by the hostile Yu Jia (Yang Ziyue). Meanwhile, Community Alliance fights back to undermine Dream Circle’s growing influence.
Shot in early 2015 but only released in Dec 2017, Young Blood 热血时代 is an unremarkable college movie with the slight differences that (a) its plot is entirely centred on rival student associations (no one is ever shown studying) and (b) the cast is mostly composed of real students. A first feature by Jilin-born indie film-maker Hui Yu 回宇, then 26, it’s toplined by an energetic performance from busy young actress Huang Shijia 黄诗佳 (so good as the heroine’s cousin in Einstein and Einstein 狗13, 2013), who totters around in platform heels and short skirts as a determined champion of her fellow students’ dreams. The script and tone are all over the place, and during the closing titles writer-director Hui even gives it an autobiographical edge with pictures of real-life students (as well as himself, who graduated in 2007).
With a 90% female cast, and entirely set at fictional Xigu University, the film initially looks like being a pulpy grrrls movie, with Huang’s freshman bullied by alpha females as soon as she arrives. As she sets up her own club after being blackballed by the university’s elite student association, the underlying theme of loners not being tolerated, of everyone gaining an identity only by belong to a group, hardly gets off the starting block, though the film does maintain a sense of trashy fun in its first half. However, as things get more serious in the second half, the wispy plot loses any traction it had – and just when it looks like ending in a battle royale in the rain, the story jumps forward three years. That’s pretty typical of a film that often promises to be better than it ever is, full of ideas but poorly organised and developed.
Then 17, Huang motors the movie with a mixture of ditz and grit, and the student cast is generally okay, notably Hong Shuang 洪爽 as the heroine’s bully-turned-friend and Ma Yi 马翼 (or Ma Yujiao 马宇娇 as he’s differently billed in the end credits) as a geeky musician who joins the women in their Battle of the Associations. A sideplot devoted to him and his father, however, is completely disposable.
Technical credits are just so-so. The opening titles claim the film is based on a true story (reportedly at a Tianjin college). Shot in Zhuhai city, Guangdong province, southern China, the film has made no impression at the box office. It’s also known under the English title Blood Time, though the title on the credits is Young Blood.
Presented by Beijing Golden Time Centre (CN). Produced by Beijing Golden Time Centre (CN).
Script: Hui Yu. Photography: Cai Qiushi. Editing: Zhang Yalin, Hui Yu. Music: Wu Xiaofei. Art direction: Ma Qiang. Styling: Zhou Hequn. Sound: Lv Ruinan, Zhang Gong, Zhao Tao. Executive direction: Wang Hao.
Cast: Huang Shijia (Gu Yuexi), Ma Yi/Ma Yujiao (Zhang Yao), Hong Shuang (Bai Li), Zhao Hongcheng (Liu Mengfan), Pan Chenlu (Lin Xiao), Li Hanjun (Xing Chen), Yang Ziyue (Yu Jia), Huang Jie (Jiang Hu), Yu Zheming (Si Nan), Zhou Anming (Zhang Yao’s father), Liu Yang (radio-station teacher), Jia Zhiguo (teacher).
Release: China, 15 Dec 2017.