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C-Drama Review: The Backlight of Love (2015) A Reflective Narrative

The Backlight of Love was released seven years ago (2015) but only today that I am able to watch it in full. And because it has only 11 episodes (20 minutes per episode), I've completed it in just three hours. Pretty quick!

Dilraba and Merxat Yalkun

At first, I thought this drama is a Chinese adaptation of the 2011 K-Drama "49 Days" (starring Nam Gyu-ri, Lee Yo-Won, Jo Hyun-Jae) due to some similarities - a rich girl about to marry a guy who is only after her father's company, and a high school classmate she was in love with. Then she died unexpectedly, and a scheduler appears. 

Dilraba as a wandering ghost Jiang Li


It's pretty much the same concept. However, the comparison ends there. The Backlight of Love follows a different story structure. And a lot grimmer than 49 Days. 


While 49 Days pumps with love, The Backlight of Love is virtually loveless. It's not a typical drama in the mainstream romance genre, so you need to prepare your mind to understand the story in the broader sense.

Dilraba Dilmurat and Merxat Yalkun

Plot Summary:

Jiang Li, an ultra-rich girl, runs away on the day of her wedding to elope with her high school love, Mo Yan, but while waiting in the abandoned building she gets stabbed.

As she lays on the ground dying, an angel named Kong Kong (Zhang Yijie) appears before her spirit and told her she has seven days to identify her murderer to have a chance to survive.

Jiang Li becomes a wandering ghost trying to find clues to the identity of her killer. But the truth is not what she had expected. 

Will she take the chance to live again? Or just accept her fate and head to the path of eternity. The Backlight of Love is adapted from the Chinese novel, "Love Against the Light".

Jiang Li seeing her comatose body in the hospital

Synopsis:

The Backlight of Love is a dark romance about a wandering ghost looking for her supposed murderer. It revolves around Jiang Li (Dilraba Dilmurat), an ultra pampered rich girl whose privileged life gives her license to be naughty and bratty while in school.

Zhang Yuwen as Qian Qiu, Jiang Li's future groom

Merxat Yalkun as Mo Yan, Jiang Li's high school love

The scenes open in the present time. Jiang Li is about to marry Qian Qiu (Zhang Yu Wen) who sits on the board of her father's company. But while everyone gets ready for the wedding ceremony, Jiang Li suddenly disappears and goes to an abandoned building.

Dilraba Dilmurat as Jiang Li walking to an abandoned building to meet Mo Yan

While waiting for Mo Yan ( Merxat Yalkun) in the abandoned building, still wearing her wedding dress, she gets overwhelmed with the thought that she can be finally with him. This starts the flashback, striding us back to their high school days.


The scenes show Jiang Li during her high school days, bratty and cruel to her classmates, bullying anyone she likes including Mo Yan. Then she gets kidnapped and saved by Mo Yan. It changes her perception and began seeing the brighter side of him.

She slowly falls in love and starts pursuing him but Mo Yan, a shy guy who seems disconnected from the world around him, never pays attention. It didn't stop Li from tailing him around and giving him gifts, but each time she gets near, Mo Yan turns her down. 

Jiang Li persists until they are in college. Then she discovers he has a girlfriend. One day she meets a dashing guy, Qian Qiu, and they become good friends. She seeks his aid to help her with Mo Yan but to no avail.

She finally agrees to a relationship with Qian Qiu when she realizes she cannot have Mo Yan. But while planning their wedding, she meets Mo Yan again and discovers why he is hostile to her all these times.

He reveals he is ashamed because they are worlds apart but he secretly loves her. Jiang Li changes her mind about marrying Qian Qiu and agrees to elope with Mo Yan. 

Back to the abandoned building, Jiang Li feels ecstatic with the memories and excited to elope with Mo Yan. But suddenly, a guy rushes to her and she gets stabbed.

As she lays on the ground dying, an angel named Kong Kong appears before her spirit and told her it's not yet her time and she can survive the attack if she can remember who stabs her.

But Jiang Li suffers a memory loss due to the impact of the injury, and thus, cannot remember the man who stabs her. She can only recall the events prior to the stabbing incident.

The angel gives her seven days to discover the identity of her killer to live again. 

It begins her journey to identify her murderer. She follows her body wheeled to the hospital and saw her father and Qian Qiu. She also saw Mo Yan, rushing to the hospital, convulsed in sadness.

She ultimately becomes a wandering ghost with a complex mission, trying to find clues leading to her murder incident. She still cannot see the face of the man who stabs her.

In her hospital room, she hears the conversation between Qian Qiu and his sister, Mei Lan, and discovers he didn't love her at all, and only after the money and the business assets of her father.

This convinces Jiang Li that it was Qian Qiu who stabs her. Plus the fact that he produces a suicide note that tells she had committed suicide by stabbing, which is most unlikely because according to her she's afraid of the knife, convinces her without a doubt that the mastermind of her stabbing incident is Qian Qiu.

However, the angel insisted she has not yet fully recovered her memory and thus, her assumptions might inaccurate. Kong Kong reminds her she is losing time to identify her murderer.

Wandering around, Jiang Li notices she can control the mind of a child and she can penetrate someone else's memory. It gives her an idea to enter and read the mind of Qian Qiu.

There, she finds the truth that he is just using her to take revenge against her father who caused the death of his father. And he wants to take over her father's business.

Qian Qiu's flashes of memories tell her that Mo Yan has been hostile to her all throughout and does not love her at all. 

However, Jiang Li refuses to believe because that's the side of the story that Qian Qiu wants everyone to believe. She attempts to enter Mo Yan's memory to see his side of the story. But she can't penetrate his mind, perhaps because he is consumed with too much sadness.

As she pursues her mission to find the identity of her attacker, she can extract bits of her memories. She recalls she and Mo Yan meets again in a time she is about to marry Qian Qiu. This makes her feeling shift and admits it's still Mo Yan who she wants to be with. She tries to cancel her wedding but her father disagrees because everything is already planned.

She and Mo Yan secretly meet and sleep together. They began planning to elope and told her to wait in the abandoned building.

Jiang Li develops anger towards Qian Qiu, accusing him of planning the stabbing incident. In the hospital, she witnesses her father telling Qian Qiu to disappear from their lives and stop visiting Jiang Li. She feels vindicated as she sees Qian Qiu walks out of her room. 

As she only has a day left to identify her killer, Jiang Li seems to lose hope to discover who stabs her. But one incident makes her recover her memory and identify her killer. 

The truth shook her to the core and loses interest to return to life. Then she finds wisdom amidst the tragedy and realizes that perhaps, she follows the wrong path of love. 

Jiang Li follows the light direction

Kong Kong asks her if she still wants to get revived. Jiang Li, realizing what she had gone through, and the prospect of living, accepts her fate that she is destined to die.

The ending implies that she died in the hospital. The final scene showed her facing the light, walking away from the world of the living with Kong Kong.

Our Review

The Backlight of Love is a bit odd. Totally different from what we have anticipated in a drama. It is a romantic story but lacks romance, a love story but lacks love and affection.

It's a story about revenge, betrayal, lies, manipulation, and deception. 

Jiang Li has it all - wealth, power, influence, extraordinary beauty, and a privileged existence but is disgruntled to know she cannot have the man that she loves. 

Despite her desperate attempt to win him nothing happened, so she turned to the next available man. Only to suffer the consequences of her action.

The flow of the story is strange because we are all hoping someone from the characters will rise above the tides of misfortune and gives us a happy ending. But it did not revolve the way we want it to happen.

This is a dark romance where the story follows the unconventional path of a love drama, full of deception, cruelty, and hate. 

Jiang Li becomes the object of revenge, and in her own world, she is trapped in the web of make-believe and manipulation, tormenting her life to suffer the terrible consequences. 

To accept that this kind of drama exists, we have to understand the complexity of life and love and the perplexity of romance and selfishness. And the consequences of deception and hatred. 

While it's easy to get angry with the two men in Jiang Li's life, and their cruel intention, it's important to look at the bizarre situations that led to their actions to take revenge.

Although none of those plights justify them to take matters into their hands and "punish" Jiang Li in the most catastrophic way, the idea of revenge that consumed their souls pushed them to the path of self-destruction.

Jiang Li might be the spoiled brat we don't want to see in a drama heroine but we know she did not deserve to be destroyed that way. However, realization dawned in her mind and accepted her fate.

Seeing how the two men just used her for their personal gain and realized how she lived a life of lies, deception, and betrayal, it's also easy to understand why she decided to accept her fate, that she is destined to die.

And I would say, the decision of Jiang Li to refuse a second chance to live is a justifiable ending. It's a realistic ending, given the circumstances of her life.

When you try to assess the flow of the script, you will understand the depth of the story, though it is presented in a negative sense, you will understand the wisdom of why it needs to end that way.

Viewers' negative opinion towards this drama perhaps is based on the fact that it is an unconventional story of love. Perhaps, everyone expects that at least one of the guys genuinely loves Jiang Li and be with her in the end. And have a happy ending. But sometimes, life never flows that way. Sometimes, it is the other way around.

This drama just tries to be realistic.

It's so rare to hear this kind of series and I even wondered why the producers even come up with this type of story when the outcome is always negative. Traditional viewers who do not care so much about plot-driven drama and story structure, always expect to watch a sweet romance with a fairytale ending.

But what surprises me is that I didn't get disappointed with how the story ended. I feel it's an authentic story that is just told in an unorthodox way. Although it has dark undertones, I am satisfied with the way it ended. 

I guess it's a coherent flow. Although there are some loopholes, the way the characters are wrapped up is satisfying. 

We get to use watching romance drama told in a traditional way, that a female lead character gets a life she deserves in the end and enjoys a happy ending with the man she loves.

The Backlight of Love follows a different path of storytelling about a romance that has gone awry. So the flow is quite different. I feel it's just how things are destined to end.

A drama that follows a reflective narrative

We maybe not get used to watching this type of genre, but The Backlight of Love is a reflective narrative. It's a type of storytelling that tells a life in retrospect through a series of events. The ending is usually executed in reflection, letting us see the bigger picture of life, and why the story needs to end that way. Why the characters need to go on separate ways, and why there's no happy ending. 

We can only count on the wisdom the story partakes.

This drama is told in a grimmer tone with a tragic ending, letting us see the odd side of life, the other side of a fairytale romance. That in life, there are darker moments that we must learn to endure and understand. 

That life is not all about happy endings. That we do encounter tribulations, we meet people by chance, and we will get manipulated, destroyed, and crashed.

In life, we cannot get all that we want. We will suffer. We will have misfortunes. We will be screwed by the very people we love. But we are given options. A chance to make life-changing decisions. 

Happy endings sometimes can just be found in fairytale books. 

I did not spill everything, I did not name the murderer of Jiang Li, and how Mo Yan and Qian Qiu ended in the story, you get to discover it so that there's still an aura of suspense. You can watch this drama in KissAsian with English subtitles because the episodes on YouTube have no English subs. 

Trivia:

Dilraba and Merxat have a bed scene here 😂 But it's cute and not obscene lol! 

Dilraba and Merxat, by the way, are both Uyghur from Urumqi, Xinjiang province. They were batchmates at Shanghai Theater Academy and both part of the class 2014. Apart from The Backlight of Love, they were paired in the Legend of Ban Zhu. 

Related story:

Similarities of The Backlight of Love and K-drama's 49 Days

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