Leader of an all-female gang in a vocational school, Yang Beibing challenges her members to raid the male locker room. While doing so, she discovers her childhood friend Yu Yi in the shower and starts having feelings for him. However, Beijing later learns that Yu Yi has a crush on a Southern Chinese girl, Zi Wei, making Zi Wei her love rival. Things get complicated when one day, while working together, Beijing and Yu Yi witness their boss Lei Guan commit a murder, she also discovers that Zi Wei and Lei Guan are romantically involved.
Only the Wind Knows is a superior student rom-com that just trips slightly at the end with a coda that adds nothing. Set some 20 years ago in China’s rough, tough northeast at a time of economic change and unemployment, it was the first solo directorial outing by Beijing-born film-maker Han Tian, then 32, after Waiting by the Lake (2012, co-dir. Zhou Wencao) – a low-budget comedy centered on a struggling writer – plus TV and online drama series. The film made only a tiny impression at the box office (RMB9 million) but Han has since gone on to make the contemporary rom-com My Love, so far unreleased.
Thinly based on a 2009 novel by Wu Xiaowu (see the cover, left), Wind had its thunder stolen a few months earlier by an online TVD series of the same Chinese name, set in the present in Guangdong and directed by Liu Quanwei (see the poster, below left), which may partly explain the film’s disappointing box office. Both works center on a tomboyish character; but Han’s film is set in a pre-mobile phone age, amid the smokestacks and iron factories of the northeast, and at a no-name technical college (rather than a spiffy university) for losers. It’s the age of the walkman, call pagers (for those who can afford them), and when Hong Kong/Taiwan pop culture still ruled Mainland teenagers’ lives. It’s not an original setting but Han, along with a strong cast and a well-worked script co-written by Jiao Tingting (with whom he’d done the online DVDs Long Time No See, 2015, and Suddenly Seventeen 28, 2016), makes it count.