Beware of spoilers…
It wouldn’t surprise me if You Are My Glory turns out to be a favourite this year because this slow burn romance has a great deal more gravitas than your average trashy rom com. To be fair I can’t think of anything that’s trashy about it. There are so few leaps in logic and so little reliance on tropes. Unfortunately recent offerings have led me to set the bar low. I also have to give the leads their due because they are very convincing in their respective roles and both have risen to the occasion. I’ve had to do a few double takes because Yang Yang from the right angles and especially when he breaks into a smile reminds me of a younger version of Mark Chao. But the star of the show is the writing. The best episodes so far have been the so-called angsty ones Episodes 15-18 where the two go their separate ways after Yu Tu turns Jingjing down for the second time. What we get then is one of the best perspectives from the male lead’s POV in a romance drama that I’ve seen. It’s not as if the show does anything startling original with the push and pull but the writing of Yu Tu has more depth than one might expect. He isn’t just your standard tsundere male who doesn’t know what he wants and blunders along in denial to everyone’s frustration. Not at all. He behaves like what you’d think a thoughtful man would. He knows exactly what he wants but he doesn’t know if he’s right to want it. It doesn’t sound like much of a difference but for him it is. It is the difference that draws the line between two worlds.
When encouraged by one of his mentors at the aerospace institute to be more proactive about pursuing Jingjing, Yu Tu’s response is perhaps not beyond the pale considering the kind of man he is. The subs say “I don’t have anything to offer”. What he literally says is “On what basis can I?” Or else “Where is the proof that I have the right/qualifications to be with her?” It’s engineering nerd talk for “I don’t have what it takes to make her happy.” Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy by default. He’s said no and she storms off unhappy. He’s not exactly a happy chap himself. For the second time in their history, he rejects her offer to start a romance with her. Fair enough. A little humility is warranted. The man is at a low point in his life. He’s been nagged at incessantly by a sea of voices and has been made to feel like a loser despite his credentials. Too many voices telling him that relationships are hard and professionals in their field don’t have much of a life outside work. What he really needs is some downtime away from civilization and in the desert for him to think about what it is he just said “no” to. Both times.
It is a journey of discovery for Yu Tu and that’s what makes Episodes 15-18 fascinating, sad and wonderful. He finds an old desktop computer in the basement storage in his parents’ apartment block that ran on Windows XP. Yeah, right. But nobody really cares because as he rummages through the hard drive he finds an old astronomy forum thread where she plied him and other members with questions about the universe. He follows the trail and finds out that she’s been waiting for him for a very long time to respond. What shakes him to the core is the knowledge that he rejected the one person in his world that actually understood him and loved him for it. When even his own parents and then girlfriend thought he was an idealistic fool, Jingjing alone believed his dream to reach the stars was worth pursuing.
The truth was there the whole time. Under his nose. Qiao Jingjing the screen star liked him then and liked him now. Yu Tu is in a quandary. He likes her too but he’s just an aerospace engineer that’s paid pittance and the working hours are not exactly family-friendly as his close colleague and friend Guan Zai keeps reminding him.
Yu Tu wants to quantify the relationship the same way he quantifies data. Forget about the money then but he can’t spend much time with her either when he goes outstation. But as Guan Zai (and his wife by proxy) tells him, relationships can’t be measured and calculated in that fashion so very mathematically.
But there is a practical answer to the problem and there’s the line from Notting Hill that comes to mind. The famous US actress says to the almost penniless British bookseller who is also doubtful, “I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy asking him to love her.” Jingjing might be a national celebrity but when they’re together she is just a girl who wants him to love her back.
The truly fascinating part is that while he’s by himself at home or in the desert pining for her he watches videos of her and listens/reads to all the text messages they exchanged before. That is all the proof he needs staring him in the face. When people talks about her as “the girlfriend” he never denies it or disabuses them. It’s isn’t just that he’s full of regret but it’s a tacit acknowledgement that he loves her back.
In a way Yu Tu overthinks it but for him, he needs to work it all out on his own terms because while he’s dated before, he’s never been in love before. It’s about companionship stupid.
Before they can be together he has to own the situation and he has to want it. For the first time in his life he has to work for something that will challenge his will not his intellect.