By: Caroline Frost · November 18, 2018
Aspiring actress Ji Xiaoxing (Du Bella), who suffers from lens aphasia (a fear of cameras), meets superstar Shu Zhan (Li Wen Han), who has severe haphephobia (a fear of touch). But Xiaoxing seems to be the only person Shu Zhan can bear to touch. As the two get closer, they find that the key to healing may not be as out of reach as they had though it would be.
One day, if you recover and can live a free and easy life like the others, I won't be the only one for you. Will your feelings change?
A golden retriever puppy and a kitten fall in love.
That was what I wanted to write as a summary. I almost did, in fact, came really close, but I'm too cowardly and settled for this instead. But yes, basically, this is the story of Smi:)e, otherwise known as Just Want To See You Smile. It's a very good romantic comedy, which does an incredible job at making something interesting out of old and boring Dramaland clichés. With a minimal amount of jealous bitches (I counted only one), no power-hungry CEOs out for world domination, and a main male character who, despite being a star, remains an absolute sweetheart, Just Want to See You Smile will pull you in right off the bat and keep you hooked until the end.
First things first, you should be aware that while this is a romantic comedy, it also focuses heavily on mental illness and its consequences on those afflicted. And, unlike some other shows, Smi:)e actually takes the topic seriously. These are no funny quirks. It's made very clear early on that this is something that deeply affects both main characters, could ruin their careers, and is no trivial matter. Shu Zhan's joy at realizing that there is at least one person on this Earth that he can touch is admirably portrayed by Li Wen Han, ending the first episode on an emotional note that will keep you coming back for more. And subsequent scenes pertaining to this matter are just as laden with emotion. This is also true for Xiaoxing's lens aphasia, and Du Bella was great in the role of this bright, sunny girl whose kindness doesn't actually make her a naive idiot.
And yes, you got it. What we have here is a heroine with a good head on her shoulders. So often the female lead starts out all reasonable and standing up for herself, only to become all meek and boring once she starts to get involved with the male lead. But Ji Xiaoxing doesn't. She knows how to protect herself and keep her feet firmly on the ground. Even when someone she admittedly likes starts showing interest, she keeps a realistic outlook on the circumstances and where those feelings might stem from, and reacts accordingly.
It's also hilarious to see her being petty as heck and taking (innocent) revenge when she can afford it, hightailing it out of there once the males gravitating around her start getting territorial, and all around being the only sane and level-headed person in her group. Which doesn't stop her from being funny and clumsy and disarmingly honest, mind you. Her bright personality and straightforward antics make her an absolute delight to see, and you can totally get why all those people are interested in her.
And going back to her doubts about the root of Shu Zhan's feelings for her, this is a very interesting relationship. Why? Because it starts out based on codependency. Shu Zhan needs Xiaoxing because she's the only person he can bear to touch, and Xiaoxing needs him because he's her ticket to help and a debut. Yet, as they grow closer and start to develop feelings for each other, they become torn between their joy that the other is slowly overcoming their illness, and the fear and sadness that they might not need them anymore. It's a terrible dilemma, and one portrayed with grace by both lead actors.
Speaking of whom, I feel like I should point out that this was the first time either of them was cast in a main role and boy, did they deliver! No, seriously, I was shocked when I saw they had never headlined a show before. Their expressions were on point, their joy and sorrow were heart-lifting and heart-breaking in turn, and their chemistry was really potent. Summed up in one sentence: their performance dripped with sincerity. They had me smiling like a loon right off the bat, and their scenes together were so sweet, it was absolutely adorable. Shu Zhan behaves like a kitten most of the time, resorting to the most stupidly adorable ways to get attention from its human, while Xiaoxing was the ever-patient yet playful golden retriever puppy who would give everything she had to the people dear to her heart.
The secondary characters were all portrayed by good actors and loveable in their own way. Or, well. Most of them. Du Ruo (Daphne Liu), as the resident walking disaster shows that you can be clusmy and yet support the people closest to you when the situation requires it. Shen Xun (Zhao Duona), jealous but always honest. Su Weibai (Hank), awkward and passionate about his work. Jiang Ye (Zhang Sha Sha), mild-mannered and smiling until you threaten the well-being of her actors... Most of all, An Ge (Lin Xiao), was a balm to the heart through his sheer kindness and wisdom, always ready to help those who needed it, be it with a gentle smile or a few words of advice, and determined to follow his dream to the end. This character was probably the secondary character I liked best with Ye Ling, but that's mostly because newcomer Lin Shi Jie has a very, very pretty face... And because his WTF faces are hilarious.
Something else that should be pointed out is the very nice speech to thank the staff that work on movies and tv-shows, and I don't mean the actors, but the people working behind the scenes. It's really the beauty of a relationship between a top star and an extra: Xiaoxing really knows the struggles and pains of the men and women working in the shadows and making the movie possible, and her gentle explanation of their efforts to Shu Zhan is beautifully shot and really emotional. Knowing people who work in that industry myself, I can say that it's one of the toughest jobs ever, pulling insane hours and very taxing on the body, and it really struck a chord in me to see this heartfelt homage to them.
This show is full of love. Love between the characters, love for its crew, love for the people who struggle with mental illness, love for a tough industry, love from its cast and crew for their work. But it's also a story about mourning, about holding on and letting go, about turning a new leaf and starting anew, about catching up on lost time. And so Smi:)e was so, so good at keeping its characters human.
Of course, there were a few things I disliked, mainly in later episodes, when the angst started. I just wanted those poor kids to be happy and loved, is that too much to ask? Also, it sometimes felt like Xiaoxing was often blamed for stuff that really wasn't her fault, although it never got serious enough that it truly annoyed me.
All in all, Smi:)e is a very good romantic comedy with an endearing main couple, good acting, pretty people, a nice soundtrack, and tons of fun and love. Good time guaranteed.
Bonus: Ye Ling's what-the-fuck face.
Starring: Li Wen Han (Uniq), Du Bella, Li Xiao, Daphne Liu
Aired: 05/29/2018 to 06/24/2018
Number of Episodes: 24
Where to Watch: Youtube
My grade: ★★★★★