The Netflix overview for this show reads, “When a frustrated businessman starts his own firm, it soon morphs into a way to help senior citizens refresh their dying traditional trades.” Who writes these blurbs? This is not what the show is about. Are there any vacancies at Netflix for blurb writers?
Indeed, helping senior citizens “refresh their dying traditional trades” is a subplot. Helping senior citizens in all aspects is a concern of one of the main characters, but is not the essence of Yes We Can! My only gripe about Yes We Can! is the exclamation mark in the title, which is annoying for review writers.
Yes We Can! also has nothing to do with Barack Obama. The Mandarin title, 我们一定行 (Wǒmen Yīdìng Xíng) roughly translates to “We Can Definitely Do It”. And the cast and crew do this.
Yes we Can! is about people young and old chasing their dreams, dreams that come in a variety of flavours. Liú Jùnwèi dreams to be his own boss, to be enterprising and start a business, any business. Romeo Tan has presence and this performance is full of wit.
Can you create a website to market this product by tomorrow morning? Yes? Great!
Career or passion?
Liu’s girlfriend Zhū Sīyí is more ambitious and career oriented. She seeks a more conventional path: work for a large firm and find a stable partner. Although she’s fond of Liu, his entrepreneurial spirit does not sit well with her pragmatism, stoked by her father’s failure to fulfil his own dreams.
Sora Ma brings a world-weary grace to Zhu which is very attractive. Zhu is no corporate robot but has her own sensitivities. Ma graduated in marketing and worked in finance so this role is a good fit. She’s tasted the corporate grind which for many of us aspiring artists is everyday reality.
Would Liu would be better off dating the eccentric Zhāng Xuěqín (张雪芹)? Zhang works in her father’s antique store, which specialises in beaded shoes. Zhang is not outgoing and lacks the expertise of her father. Rebecca Lim brings Zhang to life, creating a great on screen dynamic with Tan’s Liú Jùnwèi.
If you want to see more of Sora Ma on Netflix, she’s a playfully ambitious lawyer in Sudden and brings much needed spark to a rambling Unriddle in Season 2 (Netflix please update your show details to include Ma in these).
Thank you Mediacorp and Netflix
Mediacorp’s 2017 deal with Netflix gives audiences outside Asia a chance to see these quality productions. I didn’t expect Singapore and Malaysia to foster such talent (Sora Mar, Chen Hanwei and Yao Wenlong from Yes We Can! are Malaysian).
Why don’t countries like Australia and Taiwan, areas with similar population sizes to the Singapore/Malaysian Chinese community, produce shows of this quality more often? Do we not invest enough in Australia? Does most of our talent end up in the US? I also don’t understand why the Taiwanese seem so fixated on romcoms, but maybe there’s good content I haven’t seen that’s not screened outside Asia.
Rebecca Lim, winner of the 2015 London Choco Roll Happiness Award 最佳开心果奖
Singapore’s entertainment industry is strong enough to attract overseas talent, particularly from mainland China. Xú Bīn (徐彬) is a Chinese actor based in Singapore, a direct product of the region’s investment in the arts.
In Yes We Can!, Xu is talented dentist Lǐ Yì (李毅). He’s therefore a target for Zhu Siyi’s affection, who’s relationship with Liu Junwei is missing a spark. Zhu is attracted to Li’s career prospects, but Li also wants more out of life than the 9am-5pm grind. His passion is caring for the elderly. He will do this for free.
There are two other romance story arcs. One involves Chen Hanwei as Hóng Qīngshān (洪青山) pairing up with Chen Liping as Liú Cǎilíng (刘彩玲). I already liked Hanwei after watching The Truth Seekers, while I encountered Liping as a police informant in Unriddle. The fourth (and final!) romance involves Yáo Wénlóng (姚彣隆) as Lǐ Xiǎoyòu (李小柚) (Kitchen God in Bountiful Blessings) trying his best to repulse the advances of the desperate but endearing Hé Yúnzhī (何云之) played by Eelyn Kok. How any man with half his senses could possibly reject Eelyn Kok is not explained.
I know, I can’t explain why the producers made me reject her for almost the entire series!
Final verdict: 8.5
Which brings us back to the Netflix blurb which barely scratches the surface of this addictive drama. It takes a while to get going, but I sensed its potential and was duly rewarded.
The opening theme song, Together (在一起) is very catchy and the in-show music is perfectly integrated. Obtrusive tacky music could easily have ruined everything (exactly what happened to Once Upon a Time on Lingjian Mountain). Happily, Yes We Can!’s composer can handle not being the centre of attention because he is happy to let dialogue and acting take centre stage when no music is needed.
Perhaps a further five or ten episodes would have been more generous, but better commit the sin of a show being too short than overstaying its welcome. With the slowish beginning, 20 episodes (45 minutes each) doesn’t do it justice. Also, let’s hope Mediacorp lease more of their Mandarin shows to Netflix. Thanks for this gem.
Potentially useful vocab:
创业: chuàngyè – start a business
复合: fùhé – to get back together
木偶: mù’ǒu – traditional Chinese wooden puppet
珠鞋: zhūxié – beaded shoe