Where Winter is Warm, Where Summer is Cool 何所冬暖, 何所夏凉 stars Olivia Wang Zi Wen and Jia Nai Liang as the leads of this 44-episode Chinese drama. Wang Zi Wen plays Jian An Jie, a young woman returning to China after an absence of 6 years. She looks very different from when she was in When A Snail Falls in Love and Ode to Joy, mainly because she’s lost a fair bit of weight (which fits this character) and is sporting long hair now.
An Jie, when she was in the US, suffered a car accident where she lost her eyesight and also significantly injured her right arm. A guy by the name of ‘Elvis’ helped her to recover but disappeared after she regained her eyesight. To top it all off, she had been in effect banished abroad for inadvertently causing the miscarriage of her stepmother. So she returns, bitter and vulnerable, tasked to receive the will of her deceased mother and to look for Elvis. Her story reminds me of My Sunshine/Silent Separation that tells the story of Mo Sheng, a woman who returns from the US with secrets and scars. Jian An Jie is similar in that she is withdrawn and prickly.
Jia Nai Liang plays Xi Chi Chen, the male lead and nephew of her stepmother. An Jie seems to be antagonistic towards Xi Chi Chen in the initial episodes and he keeps trying to find covert ways to help her. I find it amusing that the two leads keep addressing each other formally as “Miss Jian” and “Mr. Xi” even when they see each other everyday living in the same household.
Other supporting leads are also quite cute and amusing: Daniel Chan (last time I saw him was in Prince of Lan Ling) whom An Jie regards as her brother, An Jie’s spunky best friend who seems to be eating in almost every scene and Chi Chen’s bantering assistant who is a serial womanizer. Trying to figure out the family dynamics with An Jie’s father and stepmother (is she the quintessential evil stepmother?) is interesting too.
The second male lead is, to me, an annoying man-child so I fast forwarded through most of his parts. I’ve since found out that the actor is Liu Chang who’s starring as Jing Ke in the currently airing The King’s Woman where he coincidentally also spends a significant amount of his screen time lovelorn and drunk.
Zhao Han Ying Zi who plays the second female lead is a straight-talking famous star who boxes and has business dealings with Chi Chen. She declares her feelings for Chi Chen in an adult manner with no fuss. I like her straight-forward attitude a lot because it is a rare departure from the usual clingy revengeful type (hope she doesn’t go down that road!)
This drama series has enjoyed high ratings right from when it aired (10 September 2017) and it’s easy to see why. The plot is not too draggy (the audience gets a good guess as to who ‘Elvis’ is fairly soon although the female lead doesn’t until past 20 episodes), the relationship between the leads seems to develop in a natural manner and the other side relationships are, as noted, also interesting to follow.
I did fast-forward through the Elvis+An Jie in the States parts because the spoken English was a little cringey. There are sometimes unexpected comic moments like when An Jie’s inept house-keeping skills causes Chi Chen to think that the house has been burgled or when she accidentally wanders into his bedroom to sleep. There are many city landscape shots of Hangzhou, where the drama was shot, apparently because they are trying to increase tourism to the area. I also noticed some prominent product placement of Yakult (a yoghurt drink) and the green package cold medication. The drama unfortunately does not have English subtitles at this time.