Better Days (2019) Poster

(2019)

User Reviews

Review this title
67 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
10/10
"If you weren't the bully, then you were being bullied."
htmlfreak10 November 2019
Every June, almost 10 million Chinese students sit for the National College Entrance Examination, or the "Gaokao". For many, this nine-hour exam is considered the most important deciding factor in a student's future: Success on the Gaokao is what determines acceptance to China's universities, which in turn determines one's future career.

Although Better Days was initially censored by the Chinese government, the decision was later changed and the movie began showing in theaters. It's not hard to see why it enticed controversy in the first place as it portrays the Gaokao as a high pressure environment that fosters bullying, mental illness, and suicide. It opens a window to a world where students study endless hours in cram schools for their chance at a good future. Accountability in bullying cases is a recurring theme that underlies the movie.

But don't get this wrong, this isn't a story about the Gaokao. This is a story about heartbreak. Heartbreak for students who are bullied by their peers. Heartbreak for single parents who put their hopes and dreams on their children. Heartbreak for those who love unconditionally and are willing to sacrifice everything. Dongyu Zhou (Soul Mate, Under the Hawthorn Tree) and Jackson Yee (TFboys) are deft as two halves of a love story while Director Derek Tsang masterfully captures the sheer range of both leads. The cinematography doesn't go unnoticed either as every shot has tremendous depth for those paying close attention.

Of the many lines that stand out in this movie, one that resonates particularly is "If you weren't the bully, then you were being bullied." To me, this is what makes the film so powerful: its ability to pull at your heart over and over again. Go out and see this film. When you leave the theater, reflect on what you saw. Wonder how despite how far we have come, we still have so much left to go.
55 out of 60 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Best act of the year
xiaohei-801128 November 2019
It will lead u thinking the flaw of education system we have.Director darely zoom in actor facial almost 3/4 of the screen to drew u inside the emotion. The interrogation scene will so perfectly edit,cut and switch between the two lead actors Some of the scene where two actor will just looking each other without saying any word and u already feel how much tough time they went through..its slowly put the spicy ingredients without your notice in beginning and burst into tears and deep thoughts in the end of the movie .its definitely the best Chinese movie of the year.
36 out of 43 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Longing for a better life to come
BitingMovieJunkie24 July 2020
Young runaway thug meets little bullied student. Now, you may be thinking: cliche, cliche, cliche. Well, it may look that way, at first sight. But, matter of fact, the end result is - on the other hand, and by all means - utterly surprising and especially convincing. Never trite, never simplistic, never needlessly tear-jerking, never rhetorical (with the sole exception of the finale, but we'll get there...). An almost-masterpiece of social conscious drama.

Even though - you know, because of the all-encompassing censorship - the movie has to proceed by "suggesting" and "implying", it still manages to convey an interesting point, in a manner which is never - I repeat, never - dull or silly. The movie manages to picture a complex everyday reality for an ever-to-large number of students, to picture an oppressing and uncompromising environment, full of every kind of pressure: scholastic, familiar, societal... Competition at all costs and unrestrained pursue of academic excellence are matched by a society which generally entails full-blown individual oppression. In such a context, there's little room left for hope and little hope left in the possibility of changing things for the better.

Edge-of-your-seat gripping and memorable, "Better Days" crawls you in to never let you go, and as I said it compels you to see and investigate, and not ignore (which is always too easy to do). You will see with your own eyes what it means to grow up in a strictly hierarchical society, where you are from a very young age "put into the right pace" and "educated" to the most complete abnegation and the most fatalistic acceptance. Compelled to always be on-the-top-of-your-game, compelled to never fail, never slow down. Because failing is not an option, failing just one test may complete ruin your future existence. Of course, there's consequentially no time for compassion, no time for any kind of distraction, no time to really socialize (and empathize), no time to play, no time to fool around. You must be always perfect. Perfect. Again: at all costs.

I mean, the unbearable pressure which Asian's students have always be subjected to reaches almost paroxysmal levels (for another example of this state of things, I'd strongly suggest you also give a chance to the chilling Korean movie "Pluto", 2012).

By suggesting and implying "Better Days" seems to have been able to elude censorship to some degree. Yes, the finale is clearly false: the last ten minutes or so have most probably been added because of censorship. But - almost incredibly - this finale doesn't really ruin the good work done in the two hours plus before it. Because it's very critical and very hard-hitting, and not by any chance consolatory or reassuring or uplifting, with all due respect to the propaganda agency.

So, in the end, to sum it all up I would say that the movie doesn't make any new point and doesn't really cover any new ground, but it's able to face its topical subject matter with assurance and ability, and great technical gift, as made clear by the excellent directing, the dark gloomy cinematography and great acting (the two protagonists really have a unique chemistry).

"Better Days" is a great movie. Realistic, poignant and thought-provoking. A little gem. Don't miss it.
14 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Strong message!
nayeemiqbal_10 April 2020
Bullying ~ the big menace in school. How it affects the bullied person mentally, emotionally, physically. The role of parenting. Not only giving birth but also becoming the parent. The school, teachers, parents, law, and above all we people; have to stop it. The story telling is good. The sacrifice we make, for the other persons.. Important message given which we dont think is a big issue. We take certain issues less important but actually being much more important. Questions raised on loyality, friends, bullying, parenting and much more. See for the message!
16 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Wish no more campus violence.
jole-998828 October 2019
Watched this file in China. Love this film, especially touched by major actor and actress. There are so many scenes that are really touched and impressed, like when the Nian and Bei in the trial room and they looked at each other without saying any word, but I cried heavily by just looking at their eyes and their facial expressions. The music and photography in this movie are also very nice. The critical theme I read from this movie is to prevent young kids from campus violence, which is still very common anywhere. Maybe not everyone like Nian can be protected and loved by someone like Bei, but I hope there is no more campus violence and everyone who had experienced or is experiencing campus violence can still have the hope of better days, and everyone who witness the campus violence can standup and stop the violence bravely. I think I'll take my friends to watch the movie again when the movie is released in US.
23 out of 32 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
What can I do after watching the movie?
chrishuang-630552 November 2019
For watching the whole movie, if there is no idea about the various illegal acts, let me say: It is definitely a very dangerous thing. But when you see illegal activities and think about what to do, you can make people like the protagonists have a better life, build laws that protect them, and find ways to make them grow and live healthily and healthily. I feel that it is a major focus of the whole movie.
15 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Better Days
jackson_ro29 October 2019
Tsang is no question a force to be reckoned him. Without him the film is perhaps at best a 5/10, as the script and story is forgettable and predictable. The director is able to instil a sense of modernism and style into the film. Better Days is also helped out by having a strong performance from both of the leads. Regardless, the motif and theme of the movie has to be told one way or another, bullying is perhaps an often forgotten topic in Chinese society, and one that is not always recognized in a country where everything is developing at such a lightning pace. More of these films should and needs to be made, works like this raises awareness but most importantly really looks at the human side & reasoning behind bullying.
16 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Full package
caylchinzah0512 March 2020
This movie had me bawling. All the actors nailed their performance especially the two protagonist. They had a beautiful chemistry. Their love was pure and deep. It definitely is one of the best 2019 movie. Our times is my all time favourite asian coming of age movie. And this just became my second favourite.
8 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
It's great!!!
amytieu-3825326 October 2019
I love the script and the performance. The play is so touching. We cried a lot.
15 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
The campus is supposed to be young and sunny
slideshowp221 December 2019
Why does school violence happen? What is the reason why one person is bullied by another? Is it just two people who have different ideas, or one person who is disliked by the other person who is bullied?



Bullies are a bit like demons, and at that moment all the pity and compassion is gone from them.



A little bit like bullying is a little bit of isolation and ridicule. At such a sensitive age in youth, not fitting in with a group can feel like a loss and can affect every aspect of life.



Dealing with others is inevitable throughout life, and building a supportive environment is something everyone needs to think about and learn from.



I also thought about how to get along with people better after some friction with people around me. But now looking back on that time, or feel lost, as if a piece of cake was bitten off a gap, but perhaps regret is also a kind of life.



Hope everyone is treated well!
7 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Impressed & Moved
westsideschl4 June 2021
I watch a lot of movies from all genres, and this one was one of the most intelligent, informative, and moving scripts I've seen. Hong Kong produced (perhaps prior to Beijing CCP repression) it tells a story out of Chongqing of high school students preparing for the Gaokao, the National College Entrance Examination.

We focus is on a studious, timid girl being bullied, and in educational opposition, her rescuer, a poorly educated street hood. Subplot of suicide driven by both bullying & the pressure to succeed to the best universities. Who is responsible for stopping bullying? The parent(s); the teachers; the school?

Another subplot is how the students are politically regimented by an authoritarian government.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
the road to success has its costs
lee_eisenberg4 May 2021
We often hear about how students in China are among the most hard-working in the world, real go-getters. The underbelly of this is the severe stress under which they operate. Derek Tsang's Academy Award-nominated "Shaonian de ni" ("Better Days" in English). The protagonist is a bullied girl about to take the National College Entrance Exam. She hooks up with a local hoodlum, but surprises remain in store.

The torment from the bullying reflects the pressure from the exam. It's a truly tough world for this girl as various events conspire to close the walls in on her. The complex characters and the general intensity of the plot make this one movie that you have to see. It's the first of Tsang's movies that I've seen, but I certainly hope to see more of them. A real masterpiece.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Heartbroken
phebychow27 April 2021
The story is heartbreaking! Plus the acting of two main characters are extremely amazing! Not to mention Zhou Dongyu, 27-year-old acting as 18-year-old ChenNian, not presented by a big yelling, only by the drops of heartbreaking tears. She is such a talented actress. Her performance evoked everyone's emotions and totally expressed her fear and hatred. Another scene about Xiaobei shaving her head which is so true and touchable!
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Emotionally satisfying look at school bullying with a romantic streak
gortx15 April 2021
Derek Tsang's Oscar Nominated (Best International Film) is an impassioned look at school bullying. The movie can be unsparing in depiction of the maltreatment, and, at times it seems like life for our teenage heroine Chen Nian (Dongyu Zhou) is nothing but abuse, whether it be physical or psychological. Still, Tsang brings to it a style and a sweep that is emotionally satisfying all the while.

Chen is a smart high school student on the verge of taking the national college entrance boards - think SAT but done on a Super Bowl level*. The pressures are enormous enough without having a nasty gang of Heathers using all kinds of tactics to make her life miserable. Chen strikes up an unlikely relationship with a street hustler named Xiao Bei (Jackson Yee) and he agrees to be her personal bodyguard of sorts.

The scenes with Chen and Xiao give Tsang an opportunity to really show off his visual skills, even if some of it seems cribbed from Wong Kar-Wai (he is hardly the first, of course, look no further than Sofia Coppola). Varqa Beuher's electronic score adds to the propulsive mix. Tsang also employs time jumps and a lot of cross-cutting - not always to the movie's advantage. A third act twist somewhat derails the story into legal thriller territory. Still, there is no denying Tsang's prowess even at its most overwrought. Zhou is in her late 20s, but, her waif-like appearance easily convinces that she is 17, and her performance is extremely affecting. HK teen idol Yee has a good screen presence to add to their screen chemistry.

BETTER DAYS tells a universal story about bullying, but, it has a vision of its own. Tough subject matter, but, a very rewarding one.

* There has been some internet controversy about Jiu Yuexi's source novel that the movie is based on being unduly influenced by a similar Japanese book by author Higashino Keigo. Of course, in Japan, the national exams are perhaps the most famously hellish in the world.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Wonderful...
RosanaBotafogo8 April 2021
So sad, so beautiful, so real, the scenes of Chen Nian and Xiao Bei are cute, poetic and sensitive, warm our hearts, in contrast, the Bullying scenes hurt in the soul... But a divine film nominated for Oscar and very necessary, undoubtedly in the dispute with Druk and Colectiv (who deserves more in the documentary category) this leads ... Exciting outcome, wonderful unfolding, lyrical scenes, Dongyu Zhou deserved a little Oscar nomination... Wonderful...
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
One of the greatest movie in 2019
tradelkf17 December 2019
I wish I can give 100000/100 for this movie. The story so real, and actress and actors player did a fantastic job in the movie.
9 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
plagiarism
evanheli2 November 2019
Anyone that is familiar with the Japanese author Keigo Higashino, and his novel Journey under the midnight sun should find this film eerily familiar, that is because the novel that this film was adapted from is a blatant act of piracy. Everything from it's plot to character development and even some dialogue were a lifted from Journey under the midnight sun and I think it's quite vital that everyone knows this.
30 out of 69 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
courage in youngsters
ferguson-612 April 2021
Greetings again from the darkness. Chinese gaokao is the College Entrance Exams that determine the future of high school students and their families. The pressure is extreme for the kids, and when the film opens, the exams are only 60 days away. One of the students leaps to her death from an upper breezeway to the concrete courtyard below. Her fellow classmates converge on the scene with cell phones recording the tragedy. One girl, Chen Nian, quietly covers up the body. While most assume the pressure of the impending test was too severe for the girl, Nian knows better. The relentless bullies that motivated the suicide have now turned their attention to Nian.

Director Derek Tsang (aka Kwok Cheung Tsang) delivers a beautiful film with compelling characters and a heart-wrenching story. Jiuyue Xi's novel, In His Youth, In Her Beauty" has been adapted for the screen by co-writers Wing-Sum Lam, Yuan Li, Yimeng Xu, and Nan Chen. Filmed in 2018, the Chinese government delayed its release due to concerns over how its society would be perceived, given extreme bullying, class differences, and the extensive use security cameras throughout. Instead, we note the similarities in people, and how young people carry burdens that often go unacknowledged.

Zhou Dongyu gives a terrific performance as Chen Nian. She's an excellent, devoted student who has no one to depend on thanks to a mostly absentee mother who spends her time scamming for money and dodging creditors. Nian has no real friends, and her closest companion was the one whose body lay crumpled in the courtyard. Nian stumbles into a situation that could not be described as a 'meet-cute', and soon she has requested street punk Xiao Bei (played by Jackson Yee) to act as her protector against the bullies, so that she may focus on the exams. Additionally, she's been questioned by the police in regards to the suicide, and Detective Zhang (Yin Fang) takes a particular interest given his knowledge of schoolyard bullies.

The bond between equally adrift and confused teenagers Nian and Bei grows, despite his being a dropout. Are they star-crossed lovers? Is it a budding romance? What makes it interesting is that it doesn't even matter. What does matter is the courage these two youngsters show in the face of adversity. Does it go too far? The third act will leave you wondering just what is the answer to their dilemma. How harshly can you judge those in self-preservation mode when the school motto is "Work Hard. No Regrets"? There is a retro feel to Tsang's filmmaking style, and we are left with the reminder that "used to be" infers a sense of loss ... and we all experience different types of loss. Excellent filmmaking that rightly earned an Oscar nomination.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
It's something should not be on the screen! Support original work!
monicaevansbx5 November 2019
The movie is rearranged from a novel which the whole story get ideas from two of the books written by KeigoHigashino (A really awesome Japanese writer, Google him!)

There were evidence, however, the producer paid WeiBo to delete the evidence that was posted three years ago and WeiBo explained that because it is illegal, the information is not allowed to show you. The director knew it is not an original work, he still chose to bought the book and rearranged it. The evidence is in Chinese and some people saved it from Internet before it was deleted. However, because of the language, it is hard tk explain in English.

Besides that, some frames are criticized as plagiarism too. The logic is unreasonable in Chinese society. And some special frames can be found in another movie. And no other movie have the same frames.

The male main actor has so many fans in China. They support the movie and regard this as a fantastic work.

Moreover, the movie seems talking about the violence in school. However, the main point is actually romantic story. The movie does not focus on the real school violence in China and does not tell the reasons, the solutions or suggestions to people. The male character fight with others to save him and the female character.

The movie use the topic school violence as a tool to attract people who didn't know the plagiarism truth and use it as a cover to get support from society.
20 out of 50 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
At last, seems nobody care what happened on school
faydao27 October 2019
I don't like ELEPHANT(2003), but this movie is kind of the same homogeneous from the former. After watching this, felt like I've watch two movie. The first half is about bully in school, the second is like.....ah, about love or something, after all it is akward. Sitting in the cinema, I can't help stop thinking, why am I here watching this , why the director will make those lines so childish and navie? Wait, she did that thing?

It's torture in the second hour. What's going on in the school, why bully happen, who take the responsibility of bully, the teacher or those adult who were watching ? What next?

Yeah, next is the subtitles, said, China government will do something blablabla, full of platitudes.
12 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Normal attempt
allisonhugh29 October 2019
With the debut of Yee on cinema, this film is generally a nice attempt for Chinese films based on school-bullying theme. While the original novel from which this film recomposed is suffering from deputes, saying it has plagiarised both the Japanese original novel and the cover of CMBYN.
10 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
This is a copycat work
goodname-7835716 March 2020
The film is based on a novel that borrows from three of Mr. Higashino's books, and it mixes the plots of all three. The film's director studied Chinese law carefully and changed the plot of the novel so that we knew it was copied but could do nothing about it. We think this is a very shameless behavior, which seriously harms the interests of the original author. We are very supportive of Keigo Higashino to stand up for himself. And I hope Jackson Yee's fans don't come here to get rave reviews!
11 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Hopeless world
Quannianjiexia19 March 2020
Except for the scenario of the script, which seems to be familiar, the quality of the others is really good. Whether it is cold violence or direct violence, various small details reflect the psychological and physiological process of the current campus violence. The portrayal of each major character is lively. The director knows the current situation of the violence in Chinese campus classes very well. In place. If the script is more creative at the end, and the movie is more flexible, it is a masterpiece. It is worth mentioning that in my mind Yi Qian Qianxi has completely faded my first impression of dislike of tfboys, and the acting skills are better than the 12 hours of Changan. After reading my mind, I was grateful to the alma mater of the middle school. The gratitude era and the affiliated middle school did not let me experience the unbearable learning environment of campus violence. Most of my classmates were kind and humble, and my teachers were Amiable. I hope that every child can protect himself with the juvenile method. When he ca n't look up to the starry sky in the abyss and is helpless, picking up a butcher may be a helpless choice.
6 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
A good movie
wxbzxqq9 November 2019
I've watched this movie for three times. What should we do if our children have those problems? It's useless to rely on others to understand and sympathize, we really should do something to avoid bullying in schools!
6 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Dark & heart wrenching with an important message
sophia-6797918 November 2019
This movie was hard to watch. Incredibly sad to see what some people go through. Though it is quite dark & harrowing to watch, it may be a good idea to be shown in all high schools.
4 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed