Story: Jay (Jay Chou) visits an university at which he wants to deepen his piano studies. It's his first day,
being transferred from another university, and Sky (Alice Tzeng) shows him around on the campus, telling
him everything he needs to know. Shortly thereafter, he meets Rain (Guey Lun-Mei) in the piano room, with whom
he instantly falls in love. The two start an innocent relationship, but Jay has to understand that his new girlfriend
is full of secrets. Why does she never attend class, and why can't he meet her parents? Jay is wondering about this,
but he is happy as long as he can at least see her every now and then.
However, as time goes by Sky also falls in love with Jay, who wins her heart with his extraordinaty piano skills. When Rain happens to see Sky kissing Jay, she misinterprets the situation and disappears. Five months pass, which feel like an endless amount of time for Jay, who meanwhile is seeking help from his father (Anthony Wong) until the day arrives at which he sees Rain again, eventually. Now, he can finally disclose her secret...
Review: It is rare that a movie can really surprise or even impress me. "Secret" is one of those rare cases.
My expectations concerning this film, which plot sounds like your standard love story and which even stars Taiwan's
popstar Jay Chou as the main lead, were quite low. When I read that the movie wasn't only written by Chou, but that
it's even the debut of him as a director, I didn't quite know what to think of it. I certainly didn't expect much.
Surprisingly, Jay Chou shows that he has an amazing sense for the right pictures. He also delivers a nice story, which can serve with an interesting twist, and at the same time he also finds the space to advertise himself and his musical genius, which he doesn't just show in the many piano pieces he is playing, but also in the soundtrack for which he also wrote some pieces. I actually couldn't stand Jay before, as his wooden performance in "Initial D" or in "Curse of the Golden Flower" couldn't convince me that he is a decent actor, which he sadly can't change here either, but his efforts as a director are outstanding and make us hope to see more from him as a filmmaker in the future.
The plot itself is actually a typical, innocent and sweet romantic tale. Most likely not exactly a film for the male audience, but the wonderful pictures and the warm atmosphere of the movie will soon win you over for sure. Moreover, Guey Lun-Mei ("Blue Gate Crossing") manages to carry the movie on her shoulders almost completely on her own and makes the chemistry between her and Jay Chou seem credible. At first the love story may seem a bit too perfect to be true and the flirting, as well as the dialogues between the two actually seem to be right out from a fairy tale for lovelorn girls, but Gueys incredible charisma and her screen presence (not to forget that she looks ashonishingly cute) make it easy for us to get access to the story. Even Jay Chou tries his best. Still, even though he delivers his best performance to date, it nonetheless feels too cold and reserved to be truely convincing.
The movie plays at the Tan Jiang High School, at which Jay Chou actually got his degree in music. Whether the campus is the real one of the university or not I couldn't find out, but if it actually is, then it surely is one of the most beautiful campi in Taiwan. The many green parks and also the interior rooms are all real eye candy with wonderful architecture and great furnishing. Director Jay Chou obviously didn't leave anything to chance and makes his movie shine in a fantastic light.
Interestingly enough, there are also some special effects, that are all executed very well. I can't go into much details, as I would be spoiling much of the story, but there is a certain scene that is obviously a homage to a movie from George Pal of the year 1960. Just look at the special effects or pay attention to the ringing of the school bell. Great stuff!
As already mentioned Jay Chou really doesn't refrain from showing us how much of a grand virtuoso he is at the piano. Surprisingly, this doesn't feel as contrived as it may sound, even not when Jay takes part in a piano battle, which may remind some people of rap battles of our time. Jay's skills are truely astonishing, but anyone in the film seems to be able to play the piano. Guey Lun-Mei also shows her talent, and even Anthony Wong plays a bit of piano in a small scene. Which raises the question if there is actually anything this man can't do? Anyway, he plays his part once again exceptionally well, depicting the caring father of Jay for a second time already. The first time being in "Initial D".
However, back to the music, which is just great. Classic fans will absolutely get their money's worth thanks to many piano pieces. But music lovers in general will also find the soundtrack to be very appealing.
After two thirds of this rather ordinary romantic tale have passed, the big twist suddenly kicks in. A twist which comes really unexpected concerning the nature of the film. This has its up- and downsides. It's possible that the plot's drifting off into fantastic realms may be putting off many viewers. Some people may feel cheated, as they were maybe just looking for a small romantic movie, and get something else in the end. I for my part, thought of this twist as a welcome change and actually liked it. In fact, this part of the story is what's making the film so appealing and somewhat special in the end. Furthermore, the movie's title already gave us a very obvious hint that there is a secret to be unraveled, eventually. When it comes to the twist we initially even think into the wrong direction until we are eventually getting on the right track. Another upside is, that the plot twist also serves us with some nice emotional scenes.
Anyway, when the surprise evaporates and we have reviewed the film in a completely new light after the twist, whereas we just get aware of some of the very well inserted and smart hints throughout the movie, we come to the conclusion that it's best not to think too much about the plot. There are in fact lots of logical gaps, that could ruin the viewing experience when reflecting too much. Nonetheless, despite all that Jay Chou manages that we are crossing our fingers for him, even though the finale may seem a bit contrived.
My enthusiasm for "Secret" simply lies in the fact that I merely expected a simple love story and got rewarded with a great twist in the end, which actually could have been foreseen - yet you are completely blind for it as a viewer. Therefore, this review may seem too enthusiastic for some readers retrospectively (meaning after watching the movie), as you already know what to expect in contrast to me. Nevertheless, this doesn't change the fact that "Secret" made a lasting impression on me. The wonderful shots and the music make me award the movie with a rating that may seem slightly generous. Still, this movie absolutely proves that Jay Chou has a bright future ahead of him if he continues to work in this direction.
"Secret" is a fantastic romantic tale, that shouldn't be missed by any fan of the genre!