Lovestore at the corner (巷弄裡的那家書店) is an intriguing drama with a touch of thoughtful, somber and mysterious tone in it. I was a bit concerned whether the drama’s extensive use of quotes from famous books will make it pretentious and it’s safe to say after watching the pilot episode, they utilize the quotes appropriately and these quotes are actually relevant to the situations. While reading the plot summary, I thought it’ll be like Amour et Pâtisserie (沒有名字的甜點店) but I’m glad its not as they’re better than in establishing a solid central conflict so that the development of the plot won’t feel unsteady and weak as it’s too subtle. It’s definitely a nice change of pace from the usual romance-centric dramas.
Well, to be fair, Lovestore at the corner also touches upon the wrecked love story between Du Ke-Jie (Tracy Chou) and Xiang Shu-Lei (Lee Wei) and alternate pairing between Du Ke-Xin (Nikki Hsieh) and Li Ze-Xuan (Alien Huang) but I feel it’s more like a human drama, the story of those people whom Du Ke-Jie left behind. Her disappearance left a hole in the hearts of those people and this creates the central conflict. The pilot episode basically introduces the central conflict and a background study on all of our main characters. Interestingly, our female lead, Du Ke-Xin didn’t have the chance to interact with our male lead, Xiang Shu-Lei yet in the first episode. This is such a rare development for the first episode of idol dramas because most dramas are usually so fast in making their heroine and hero cross paths in the beginning.
I won’t write a detailed recap and I’m not sure whether I’ll continue reviewing this drama for upcoming episodes as this drama is pretty complicated and time-consuming to review that I don’t think I can cope with my limited English language skills. Some of the quotes and poetry are SO difficult to translate into English, I can’t just translate them into direct language because it will twist the meanings and the true essence will be lost in translations. This is also an intricate drama that you need to actually watch to fully enjoy. Lovestore at the corner airs in CTS (same channel as Rock ‘n’ Road) on every friday, competing with the popular SETTV Friday drama, In A Good Way (我的自由年代) which is heading towards the finish line in about 2 more episodes. I think there is a fair chance for this drama becoming my new friday crack drama, in replace of IAGW and maybe… another potential crack Friday drama is lining up before me, the new SETTV drama that is starring Jasper Liu and Puff Kuo (Fan accounts said they’ve started the filming already!!! SQUEAL!).
Du Ke-Jie (Tracy Chou) and Xiang Shu-Lei (Lee Wei) are lovers. Ke-Jie is a well-known bookworm among those people who know her. She loves books so much that she jokingly answer that she loves book more than him when Shu-Lei asks her to pick either him or the books. Shu-Lei on the other hand have no interests in books and is quite a famous playboy, plus he’s rich to boot so most people can’t do anything about him. However, it seems that Shu-Lei truly loves Ke-Jie as he finds her unique and different from the other girls whom he dated.
She’ll never ask questions like whether he will love her forever and when he asks why doesn’t she ask such questions, she just nonchalantly answer that she doesn’t want to give him the chance to lie and will prefer falling in love with him every single day instead of forever as she doesn’t want to love him today just because she love him yesterday, there must be a reason for her to love him today too.
It seems that Xiang Shu-Lei’s playboy habits have not die down even though he truly loves Ke-Jie, he still feel insecure deep down and that makes him revert back to his old habits, he’s having a secret affair with Ke-Jie’s best friend, Dong Xin-Ni (Chloe Wang) behind her back. His reason of having this affair is because his family runs a hospital and he often see those patients dying with the thoughts of having tomorrow but in reality, they’ll die before they’re able to finish what they want to do.
So, he thinks that living his life to the fullest and care-freely is the most important thing to him. He doesn’t love Xin-Ni but his “carefree” habits are just too difficult to handle so he constantly seeks pleasure with her. He feels guilty to Ke-Jie as it seems that he saw someone like Ke-Jie on the street while riding back on his motorbike with Xin-Ni sitting on his back. He doesn’t want to hurt Ke-Jie and firmly warns Xin-Ni that he’ll go back to Ke-Jie no matter what and that deeply hurts Xin-Ni. Different from him, Xin-Ni is sincere about her love for Shu-Lei, she truly loves him instead of just playing around. Even though she feels guilty at times and she knows it’s wrong during this whole affair, she feels it’s too hard to quit.
However, their affair ended after Ke-Jie reportedly gone missing in the mountains where she went hiking and never came back. No body or any item of her is found during the extensive search that has long gone for a month. This leaves Shu-Lei devastated and he blames himself as he thinks that Ke-Jie is trying to punish him for cheating on her and believes that the girl who looks like her on the other day is her, she must have known about him lying to her. After losing her, Shu-Lei goes through a phase of destructive mode and pays no attention other than searching for her.
Xin-Ni on the other hand also feels guilty and she’s the one who calls off their affair but feels hurt when she sees Shu-Lei not even paying attention to her as he’s still immersed in the emotions of losing Ke-Jie. She tries to make her guilt fade by putting all of her effort in her work, becoming a workaholic and an ace in the reality estate business. However, the disappearance of Ke-Jie still affects her a lot deep inside as she often thinks about her from time to time.
Ke-Jie’s disappearance not only affect Shu-Lei and Xin-Ni, but also her family members. Du Ke-Xin (Nikki Hsieh) is left behind in a family that’s broken as her mom often cries over her sister’s disappearance and often complain about their dad’s obsession of finding Ke-Jie. Ke-Jie’s dad is so obsessed about finding his lost daughter that he goes hiking on the mountain in search of her everyday and pays no attention to his surrounding, he doesn’t even pay the bills, taxes, rental fees or pay attention in anything other than Ke-Jie’s stuffs.
Her family are all obsessed about the disappearance of Ke-Jie that no one at home pays attention to the poor Ke-Xin, she’s also hurting deep inside but doesn’t express much, it was only when she’s left alone then she’ll think about her sister. She seems to be interested in dancing but nobody knows about it.
The first episode emphasize on the disappearance of Ke-Jie and the complicated affair between Shu-Lei and Xin-Ni, there’s less portion on Ke-Jie’s family so not much being touched upon Ke-Xin but I’m sure they’ll talk more about her in the next episode as it seems that Shu-Lei will get into an accident and loses all of his memory, which is when he’ll open a bookstore and encounters Ke-Xin, that’s when the central story begins.
The theme for this episode could be “those who’re left behind”, just like recycled waste, nobody pays attention to them anymore. I could especially feel strongly for Ke-Xin’s sadness, alienation at home and how she feel helpless as there’s nothing she can do to replace her sister that her family misses so much. This actually is kind of related to one of the story Ke-Jie reads for Shu-Lei, the book with the title “The loneliness that’s too loud”, a story about a lonely old man with no relatives or family who collects recycled waste that everyone look down upon but actually, he’s the happiest when collecting unwanted books in the waste dump as if he found gems and treasure from reading the stories. Ke-Xin is like those recycled waste, if her parents would just stop and take a look at her, they’ll notice that she’s actually a hidden treasure that they’ve long forgotten when they’re blinded by obsession on Ke-Jie’s disappearance.
One sequence when Ke-Xin dances alone under the night sky is directed so beautifully and resonates with me a lot emotionally as Ke-Xin imagines her sister, Ke-Jie appearing in front of her and she asks where did she go, Ke-Jie replies, “To a big adventure!”. Then, she dances blissfully with the imaginary sister until Ke-Jie suddenly disappears and Ke-Xin realizes that she was just her imagination. She stops dancing for a while, staring at the empty space but soon, she continues dancing. I feel it was giving the message, “she’s lost but life have to continue”, Ke-Xin will continue going forward despite missing her sister and the loss of her sister is forever engraved in her heart, just like a missing piece, she’s incomplete. That was one beautiful sequence with Ke-Jie narrating a quote from one of her favorite books:
Everyday I think of you and each time missing you, a drop of water will fall from the sky, thus it forms the pacific ocean.
– The Stories of the Sahara
GAHHHH! This is so moving, the quote is in perfect synchronization with the situation.
Another memorable sequence is when Shu-Lei is in his destructive mode and falls off from his motorbike in the mountain road, he looks up the sky, thinking of the poet that Ke-Jie always tells him whenever he’s in bad mood because of his dad whom he doesn’t have a good relationship with. This poet has also been narrated a few times in the first episode, it’s almost like the main poet for this episode.
Then, we’ll surprisingly find that in the ocean filled with surging dark tides,
there lives a life brighter than the sun,
clearer than the snow,
braver than the wind and thunder.
Polaris is the witness,
no matter from which direction you observe,
it’ll be majestic, filled with joy and strong.
It swiftly surrounds the seagulls with flapping wings,
flying across the drifting icebergs.
– Seven Layers of Ocean
It means that only those who endures turbulence and grinds are able to live their lives brightly, clearly and bravely. It’s referring that hardships and sadness will only make them stronger. It fits in with the situation when Shu-Lei is so miserable over the loss of Ke-Jie, he thought of this poet as he wants to fully embrace his devastation and become stronger for Ke-Jie’s sake.
See what I meant of the poets being difficult to translate and interpret? Because these quotes are all correlated with the characters’ situation and the books tell the stories of the lives of these people, it’s so deep and complicated to comprehend at times. Different people may have different interpretations of the quotes and poet and I’ll be happy to find people to discuss about this drama. I’m happy to find a drama that can be this thought-provoking in Taiwanese industry.
From the first episode, I think Lee-Wei and Chloe Wang did a great job in portraying their own twisted yet damaged characters respectively, they’re so intense and even though I think Chloe’s styling made her look older by at least a decade, LOL! I think she’s marvelous in playing the hurt third wheel and guilt-ridden friend, her acting improved tremendously after IUUI (我愛你愛你愛我), she was decent in it but not as memorable as in this drama. Lee Wei is fantastic in Man.Boy (小孩大人) and I think his acting has matured over the years, there’s this certain calm and collected aura to him in recent years which I appreciate. It looks like he’s taking his acting job seriously and have been continuously polishing his skills. Nikki Hsieh may be the weaker link in this drama but maybe that’s because I’ve not yet seen enough of her character as the first episode spotlights were on Lee Wei and Chloe’s characters. She’s taking the backseat for now but I’m sure she’ll improve as the story progresses. Tracy Chou fits Du Ke-Jie’s character to a tee, she got the mysterious aura down and her narrations are pleasant to listen to.
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVEEEE the soundtrack so much!! Watch the wonderful opening theme and listen to the awesome track below!
Opening Theme: Shi Shi – Shouldn’t be, Shouldn’t be
Ending Theme: Alien Huang – Emotional Love Song