7 reasons At Cafe 6 (六弄咖啡馆) fell flat of my expectations despite my tears (Movie Review)

July 24, 2016

our times, at cafe 6, you are the apple of my eye

Preferring to read a book if I was really interested in a story, I'm not particularly entertained by watching movies — every time I step into the theaters willingly, it's always for a Taiwan movie. I can't explain my attraction to them, but everyone knows I'm pretty damn passionate about my Taiwan movies. I've been counting down to the days At Cafe 6 (六弄咖啡馆) hit the shores of our sunny island, announcing daily in the office that I'm one day closer to catching the movie.

Before my movie, I did a quick google search and every Singaporean blogger who reviewed the movie raved about it so naturally, I was thrilled. Expectation breeds disappointment and I'll start by saying the movie fell flat of my expectations.

Yes, I wept. Not once, not twice, but I wailed for a grand total of FIVE times throughout the movie, yet I'd say that I was disappointed by the movie. A self-proclaimed Taiwan movie addict, let me explain why I walked out of the theater feeling upset by the outcome of the movie.

(Warning: lots of spoilers ahead)

1. Unpreventable comparisons drawn caused by the wrong release date

Of course critics would compare the movie to You Are the Apple of My Eye (那些年,我們一起追的女孩) released in 2011 and Our Times (我的少女時代) released just in 2015. That's At Cafe 6's first mistake — releasing it too soon after Our Times.

Our Times was a hit with its audience because four years was considerably a good break from high school rom-com. The public has more or less forgotten about You Are the Apple of My Eye and its story has somewhat faded from our memory (though comparisons were still drawn).

Perhaps production already began before Our Times' success or the director of At Cafe 6 wanted to ride on the popularity of Our Times, but releasing it less than one year after the prosperous 2015 coming-of-age movie caused the inevitable comparison between the two similar movies (three, if you include You Are the Apple of My Eye).

Now, At Cafe 6 had a lot to live up to because of how widely well received the previous movies were.

Alas, as seen by the lack of enthusiasm shown by Singaporeans, At Cafe 6 didn't set the public into a frenzy like the other movies did. This could also be caused by its release dates clashing with major blockbusters (Star Trek, The Purge, Apprentice), taking the attention away.

I checked with my Taiwanese colleagues and they concurred At Cafe 6 is barely publicised, not on par with Our Times and the hype is hardly felt. In fact, some of them haven't heard of the movie till I mentioned it and showed them the trailer (oh, the irony).

2. The wrong choice of cast

The cast can either make or break a movie. In this case, it's the latter. With a lack of chemistry between them, I walked out of the theater feeling like I merely caught another movie, not with the familiar longing sensation I frequently get from Taiwanese movies.

I also don't hear girls fangirling over either of the males in the movie like they did for Ouyang Feifan (played by Dino Lee, 李玉璽) and obviously Xu Tai Yu (played by Darren Wang, 王大陸) in Our Times

I'm not saying looks are everything but hey, like it or not, they are factors to whether the movie is talked about or not.

Unapologetically biased because of my love for Dino Lee, whom I told my colleagues is my fiance HAHAHAHA.

3. Their Chinese enunciation

Though the previous point can be subjective, the actors' weak grasp of Chinese is a regular criticism about At Cafe 6. Walking into the cinema late, the first words were from Guan Min Lu (played by Dong Zijian, 董子健), causing me to question if I was in the right hall.

His Chinese accent was too distinct to ignore. In fact, I'd go so far to say his accent spoilt most of the movie, supposedly set in Taiwan, for me.

Li Xin Rui (played by Cherry Ngan 顏卓靈), who's a native Cantonese speaker (I assume, from her Hong Kong nationality) struggled with articulating several Chinese words as well. Maybe I'm nitpicking but these little things add up to the authenticity of the film.

4. I hated the female potagonist

I'm sorry this is highly personal but the female protagonist Li Xin Rui irked me from the moment their supposed long distance relationship (LDR) started. All's love, puppies and rainbows in high school in their ambiguous stage of love.

However, to the difference in their high school results, the male protagonist, Min Lu, studied in a university in Kaohsiung and Xin Rui, in Taipei. So began Min Lu's journey of endless part time jobs to sustain his routine of travelling from Kaohsiung to Taipei every weekend or so.

Yes, it's sweet but halfway through his weekly journey, the exasperation got to me. I was caught wondering why doesn't Xin Rui ever travel to Kaohsiung for him? Not even once? Most importantly, when she started working part time as well, why didn't she volunteer to pay at least half of his train tickets to lighten his burden? Why was he always the one springing surprises? Maybe this was done to show Min Lu loved Xin Rui more from the beginning but it pissed me off enough to feel irritated at her.

Xin Rui didn't do herself any favours when she constantly complained that the distance was getting too much, adding to my list of annoyance. I get that Taiwan is not as small as Singapore, where we can travel anyway within two hours via public transport, but goddamn, you're still in the same country!

In spite of the absence of cell phones, Facebook and social media in general, they were on the phone every single day, deciding on their next meals together (pretty cheesy but it's puppy love after all yo). Come again, what distance?

Hiding the fact that she was attached from her new partner, my resentment towards Xin Rui grew when it was revealed on Xin Rui birthday that she cheated on Min Lu. Hell, furious is an understatement.

Homegirl didn't have the courage to let Min Lu know her decision when he called about her birthday, hung up on him and had the audacity to hold their distance accountable for her cheating ass yet again, then sending a cruel, guilt-tripping message to Min Lu as he left Taipei, blaming his absence. Hello, he was busy studying and working hard for a future together with you!

Xin Rui, please get back to your seat.

5. Character development (or the lack of)

a. The death of Min Lu's mom

A vital plot of the movie yet I could hardly find images or information of it online, Min Lu's mom came and went. There was enormous potential for the story to grow into something mature rather than the usual stereotypical chick flick.

To a certain extent, my heart wrenched for Min Lu's mom but her appearance in the movie was too brief — I hardly got time to know her before her sudden departure caused by her passing.

Her emergence was as a caring mother who bailed Min Lu after his gang fight. There, I took a liking to her as she was understanding towards her son's plight in contrast with blaming him as typical Asian mothers would.

The second time we saw her was when she turned up at Min Lu's university to pass him home cooked soup, only to miss him by a bit because the supposedly endearing Xin Rui made Min Lu travelled all the way to Taipei for her to throw a tantrum.

Was Min Lu sad that he missed the chance to catch up with his mom when he received the soup from Bo Zhi? Or was Xin Rui all he cared about at that point? Guess we'll never know.

When she called and reminded Min Lu to be home, we knew he was going to forget about it. But what was her reaction? Did she prepare a scrumptious feast only to have him stood her up? Any mother would be heartbroken but we never found out because we were never given that potential tear jerking scene.

b. Xin Rui and Xin Yi's sisterhood

I adored the unspoken alliance between Min Lu and Bo Zhi but I hardly know about Xin Rui and Xin Yi's friendship. As BFFs, they hardly had airtime together, with Xin Yi fizzling out halfway in the movie.

Xin Yi was initially against her best friend dating Min Lu — what happened in the end? Was she supportive of their LDR? Was she moved by Min Lu's sincerity? Did she reprimand Xin Rui when she cheated or was she blindly supportive of her girlfriend?

c. Bo Zhi and Xin Yi's love story

While Min Lu and Xin Rui were getting tangled in their LDR, their respective best friends, Xiao Bo Zhi (played by Austin Lin Po Hung, 林柏宏) and Cai Xin Yi (played by Ouyang Nini, 歐陽妮妮), were evidently having sparks of their own, with Bo Zhi clearly chasing Xin Yi, who constantly rejected his advances. Fast forward to present, they got married. What?! How, when, where, why?

I relished in the bit where they showed Bo Zhi married Xin Yi (him picking up letters addressed to her and kissing her as she slept on) but there were so many unanswered questions! Did they keep in touch throughout the years or reconnected when one of them moved to the other state? What made Xin Yi accept Bo Zhi in the end? Did Xin Rui's cheating affect Xin Yi's relationship with Bo Zhi, if it already began by then?

d. The girl who caused a fight

Regrettably, I can't recall the name of the character played by Irene Song Yi Ren (top left). Although subjective and irrelevant, Song Yi Ren was, in my honest opinion, the only cute girl in the movie hahaha. Question is, if she was important enough for the poster, why wasn't her character developed on?

Moreover, she had a important role to play too — as the girl who had a crush on Min Lu and the cause of the gang fight and the boys' injuries.

e. Luo Jie and his basketball buddies

Ahhh, what's a high school movie without the school beau, am I right? Lamentably, the school beau, Luo Jie, and his gang of buddies, were another sudden appearance and disappearance.

Cliche as it may be, I presumed the friendship would blossom after they spontaneously joined Min Lu and Bo Zhi in the gang fight to defend their fellow school mates but no, these charming basketball players simply vanished from then on, resurfacing only during the high school reunion, for 10 seconds or so.

f. Min Lu's depression

The MOST disappointing of the lot. You can cut away the scenes of your side characters due to time limit but you can't choose to sacrifice developing a key part of your protagonist that determined his outcome and led to his death eventually.

It was so blatantly detectable from the letter Min Lu wrote to Bo Zhi that the former was suffering from depression and I wished the movie educated its audience on one of the most common mental disorders in the world. The director could have spent a few seconds with little hints here and there regarding Min Lu's depressive behaviour and symptoms, then hitting the audience right in the feels when Bo Zhi recalled those little warning signs we missed.

But no, it was a wham!, Min Lu suffered from depression and he committed suicide. Depression and suicide is a sensitive topic for me but I couldn't even bring myself to shed tears or feel anything about Min Lu's mental illness that ultimately led to his death. The death of a lead character not elaborated on should be a sin in the movie-making industry, if it isn't already.

6. Rushed story line

Huh, it's over?? Voted the most anticipated novel-turned-movie in 2014, I presumed I'd walk out of the cinema with a sense of loss, which, in actuality, was replaced with feeling lost. The chain of events that happened in the last 30 minutes or so of the movie left me no time to feel heartbroken before another crucial event hit me. Then, before I knew it, the movie was over.

Marketed as a romantic movie, there was, unfortunately, a lack of #relationshipgoals scenes girls love to gush over and guys love to hate. Instead, it was overshadowed by Min Lu's death, which wasn't properly built upon either.

7. Not using the soundtrack enough

True that Hebe Tian's 小幸运 gone viral helped in the marketing of Our Times but At Cafe 6 has a pretty amazing theme song as well. 半句再见, sang by local songbird Stefanie Sun, was likely to pull the audience's heart strings when used appropriately but the director did not leverage on that, instead opting for unrealistic, corny sound effects that were used excessively.

Despite its flaws, I must have loved something about the film to cry five times throughout.

What went well?

1. Min Lu And Bo Zhi's bromance

The irreplaceable friendship Min Lu and Bo Zhi shared was my favourite part of the movie. We all know a Bo Zhi in our lives — the friend who would kill for you so long as you open your mouth to ask, and this movie was built largely on that.

I took delight in their signature dance and how Bo Zhi was always there for Min Lu as his rock, a silent protector and guardian angel.

He had all sorts of funny ideas to bring Min Lu and his dream girl together, he braved the typhoon with Min Lu in a motorcycle from Kaohsiung to Taipei, he was there to be Min Lu's punching bag after his mother's funeral, and finally, he fulfilled Min Lu's last wish. We all need a friend like that in our lives.

2. Jogging wistful recollections of our youth

The same reason for the successes of You Are The Apple Of My Eye and Our Times, At Cafe 6 uses the age old recipe of our adolescences that we miss, the feeling of nostalgia for a time we love to reminiscence because things were much simpler back then.

As the movie so nicely puts it,
“我们都有类似的青春, 但却有着不同的人生。”
(Translation: We all share similar youths but different lives.)

3. Bo Zhi's cheekiness

His vigorious animation provided laughter and added life to an otherwise depressing movie. (Brownie points for his cute dimples!) 

In spite of Bo Zhi's presumptuous disposition, he fulfilled Min Lu's last wish. In a perturbing but touching way, Min Lu's death also helped Bo Zhi set a goal in life and made sure he got somewhere — to work hard and be successful enough that he can start up a cafe for his best friend.

4. Quotes from the movie


The general consensus is that this is a hit or miss with the public. You either love it or hate it, and I'm on the first camp. Although a little abrupt at times, I enjoyed the abundance of quotes scattered throughout the movie, whereas others thought that too much of the quotes was an overkill.

However, I could hardly find examples of the quotes I loved from At Cafe 6, proving that the movie is little quoted on social media compared to Our Times. I can easily type a few lines from Our Times cited repeatedly all over that it's embedded in my mind:

  • 很久很久以后我们才知道, 当一个女孩说她再也不理你,不是真的讨厌你, 而是她很在乎你,非常非常在乎你。
  • 女生说没事,就是有事;女生说没关系,就是有关系!
  • 没穿过高中制服翘一次课,长大才会后悔。
  • 原来,真的喜欢一个人,会没有勇气告诉他
  • 喜欢上一个人,是会不知不觉的。

    In short, on its own, At Cafe 6 is a relatively delightful way to past time if you walk in with no expectation and walk out forgetting about it. If you're a massive fan of You Are The Apple Of My Eye and Our Times, this is unlikely to be another much talked about competitor years down the road.

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    1. Thank you for explaining the end because it left me confused.... I agree completely with your review of this movie.... you made me laugh big time with a couple of things you wrote (That's a GOOD THING). I just watched this movie recently... I googled the ending of this movie to try and understand it, and that's how I ended up here on your website. Thanks and have a good day/might.

      1. Thank you :) I was slightly disappointed that I couldn't find more articles online about the movie though; would have loved to see what other people thought of it.

      2. Regarding your next comment, I thought he was hit with depression because typical sadness would probably not drive someone to the point of suicide. It has to be a built up. Of course, I'm no psychology major and am merely speaking from what I ~think~ I saw from an outsider's perspective.

        Yes, I would believe that Bo Zhi married to Xin Li and Bo Zhi opeed a coffee shop / cafe because Min Lu wanted him to open one to fulfill Xin Rui's dreams of opening a coffee shop / cafe, which further added to the sadness since he thought so much about her even in his last moments.

      3. Dear Pekyj, I just read your review and THIS. IS. HELLA. GOOD. It explain a lot of things that I didn't get it in this movie. I enjoy this movie a lot, and cried a lot haha. (No, I didn't read the book, yet)

        When I read this acticle, I do agree in your opinion. I also thought that we have the same taste in movies haha. Soo, bookmarked!

        Have a nice day!

    2. Haha same here, after watching the movie, that came out in my mind was... what ? what happen ? did he died ? when ? why ? why the ending came like this ? yeah sad if we compare it to You are the Apple of My Eye.

      1. Hey, thanks for your response... I apologize for writing again but I was pissed off how the movie ended and I was pissed off with other parts of the movie, which you also addressed in your review... how did you know he had depression? The movie indicated that he was sad but not to the point of suicide.

        You wrote, "... Maybe this was done to show Min Lu loved Xin Rui more from the beginning but it pissed me off enough to feel irritated at her..." and you wrote, "Homegirl didn't have the courage to let Min Lu know her decision when he called about her birthday, ..."

        That's impressive that you used "Homegirl" and "pissed me off" correctly, which is cool as fuck. I have been to other countries but nobody has used those terms correctly if they used those terms at all.

        I thought the guy talking in the beginning of the movie in the coffee shop was Min Lu later in life.... until the end of the movie... was Bo Zhi married to Xin Li in the end? Why does Bo Zhi have a coffee shop? I thought Min Lu wanted Bo Zhi to help Xin Rui open a coffee shop as a favor to Min Lu.

        Thanks again and I'm gonna watch You are the Apple of My Eye. Good day/night.

      2. I actually prefer Our Times to You're The Apple of My Eye though — I'm a sucker for happy endings which Apple of My Eye didn't provide but I guess Apple of My Eye was more realistic, especially since it was based on the author's life.

    3. So what happened to Min lu and Xin rui...????!!!
      And who's the fuck a guy and a woman at the end of the movie??????!!
      God damn, help me understand the ending please...

      1. Min Lu committed suicide, Xinrui went on with her life, and the man and woman at the end of the movie are Bo Zhi and Xin Yi :) Hope this helps!

    4. Seems like you missed the very short scene after the credits at the end of the movie. They show a brief scene of Xin Rui alone with the cat.

      1. I watched that scene but I don't think it makes a difference. So what if she gave the cat that name, it doesn't change anything she did — at least that's how I felt. Hmm, what do you think of that scene then? Maybe you had a different takeaway.

      2. I agree, the cat's name doesn't imply that she regretted things she did in the past.... but who knows if she lived with regret or not (I don't know). Thanks.

      3. Well I interpreted that scene as she chose to stay single and did not really end up with someone else perhaps regret of having caused the death of min lu