The plot of First Time seems laughably familiar when you first look at it. Girl meets boy Check. Girl and boy falls for each other? Check. Girl has terminal illness? Check. If you are an avid Korean drama fan, you'd recognize the plot from a mile away. Or so I thought.
Despite all the misgivings about such tired and overused plots, First Time is really, well, something else. The film itself, separated by two parts, chooses to build itself up slowly. The first half introduces us to its leads: Shi (Angelababy), the saccharine college student who loves recording monologues on dated cassette tapes, and Gong (Mark Chao), the impossibly handsome rocker who enters her life, full of bravura and verve.
Director Han Yan also introduces us to a few other key characters, such as the matronly Shi's mother, who appears seemingly overprotective towards her daughter when she begins dating Gong; as well as Gong's bandmates - a rowdy and messy bunch, but also has their frontman's best interests in mind.
While all this may seem very cliché, First Time doesn't let itself go overboard. Though there are bound to be romanticized, dramatic moments (after all, it is a film about a couple's first romance together and we all remember our firsts, for better or worse), Director Han Yan keeps a tight ship running with a perfectly blended mix of both whimsicality and sensibility.
While one might scoff at the numerous imagined cartoon characters that Shi idly creates in her head, or at how Gong breaks out into sappy love songs proclaiming his love for Shi, complete with confetti, these are all essential. They seamlessly combine together to create a touching, ethereal setting that manages not to stray too far with its believability.
Ultimately though, as with all plots involving terminal illness patients as their lead actresses, the love between Shi and Gong is an ephemeral one, highlighted in the latter part of the film. And perhaps it is this very reason that makes the film melt even the most stoic of hearts. The plot twists, though predictable, will still manage to tug at your heartstrings when they happen.
Let them, and then bring along some tissues for the ladies - you won't regret the ending. Those longing for more should also stay after the end, with several extra scenes playing both during and after the rolling of credits.