“Uncontrolled Love” or “Irresistible Love: Secret of the Valet” are two titles that mean different things for the same movie. Depending on who you ask, either title is right, or either is very wrong. The stylish Chinese movie centers around two men who share a life together, albeit in an unexpected manner. One is born to wealth, one to poverty. One owns the other through money. One owns the other through a silent love that reminds me of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”
Love is a universal concept; however, there is no universally accepted definition of love. Throughout life, people experience love in many different ways, which results in an individual interpretation of love itself. In Uncontrolled Love – a masterpiece by director Sun Cheng Zhi– love is defined in two completely different manners through the characterizations of Xie Yan and Shu Nian. Love was portrayed as a manifestation of power and obsession, as well as an act of obedience. However, there is a similarity between the two, namely, devotion.
The only heir of TSE Group, Xie Yan, was portrayed by Meng Rui. Being an only child of a real estate mogul, Xie Yan always gets what he wants easily. All he has to do is instruct his people, and the next day, he will get whatever it may be. One day he meets Shu Nian on a visit to an orphanage, a cute figure named Shu Nian instantly grabs his attention. He then adopts Shu Nian to be his possession. Xie Yan promises his newly adopted ‘brother’ that he will treat him nicely as long as the latter follows his instruction.
The main protagonist, Shu Nian, was played by Wang Bowen. He is a reserved individual who enjoys being alone. His encounter with Xie Yan changes his life forever. A boy who lives in an orphanage now has become the possession of a billionaire heir. Yet, he secretly develops feelings for his ‘brother.’
The main antagonist, Jiang Yao, is portrayed by He Ya Meng. She is the girlfriend of Xie Yan, who holds a grudge on Shu Nian. When she finds out the truth about Shu Nian’s feelings for Xie Yan, she does almost anything to protect her status as the billionaire heir girlfriend.
Ke Luo, who is played by Zhou Jun Chao, is a friend of Shu Nian. Their sudden encounter outside a bar where Shu Nian works brings them closer together. When Shu Nian sees him as a brother, Ke Luo seems to develop romantic feelings for him.
Shu Nian is an introverted kid who loves spending time alone. Growing up in an orphanage, he always dreams of finding the perfect family that will adopt him and loves him like their own child. Yet day by day, all he gets is a broken heart as no family has come to take him into their family. One day, he meets Xie Yan, the only heir of a real estate magnate, who instantly falls for his cuteness. From the brief encounter, the two form a special bond. Years went by, and they are reunited once more after being separated for six years. Although they have grown up, Xie Yan still treats Shu Nian in the same manner as when they’re children, leaving the latter feeling uncomfortable with his approach.
Moreover, the two brothers’ relationship also makes Jing Yao, Xie Yan’s girlfriend, quite jealous. But she can’t do anything since his boyfriend threatens to dump her if she ever touches his possession, Shu Nian. Things get more complicated when Xie Yan figures out Shu Yan’s true feelings for him. Being an insecure homophobic, Xie Yan, who is also confused with his own feelings, decided to send his adopted ‘brother’ to study abroad. However, Shu Nian’s absence makes him realize that among all people in his life, only Shu Nian can soothe him and comfort him when things get too overwhelming.
But, is it too late for Xie Yan to pursue his love? And will Shu Nian accept his brother’s love? Love might not have a time limit, but patience does. We can’t ever be certain that someone is going to wait for us forever.
My Thoughts of the Movie
I think the first time I learned about Uncontrolled Love, was from a compilation video of must-watch Chinese BL that I watched on YouTube. I remember seeing a glimpse of the movie, but I never had the urge to watch the full movie. It’s either I didn’t pay much attention to the video, or I forget about it right away, which happens all the time. And for whatever reason, I feel a bit sad that I keep missing the chance to watch an intriguing love story that rarely can be seen in the Chinese BL industry.
Growing up, I always felt the desire to learn about human relationships and their complexity. Unusual couples tangling in an odd relationship interest me. That’s why I enjoyed watching Uncontrolled Love as it’s giving me a distinctive portrayal of a master-slave relationship, particularly regarding the reason behind their decisions to stay in that kind of romance.
Through the story of Xie Yan and Shu Nian, viewers can see the effect of our past experiences in crafting our idea of love. For Shu Nian, who felt neglected as a child, Xie Yan’s kindness to adopt him, as well as his possessiveness, is seen as an expression of love. This thought makes him believe that love equals being owned, where freedom doesn’t really matter. On the other hand, Xie Yan, who is an only child of a billionaire, sees love as a thing that you can easily buy with power and money. Instead of partnership, he believes love is a state of ownership, where he can do almost anything towards his possession. The two main leads have been involved in this master-slave relationship for years, making it their habit that is somehow hard to change. Thus, they choose to stay the same.
Besides the master-slave relationship, the movie also reveals the struggle of people who are in denial of their true identity. Xie Yan was portrayed as a homophobic individual who is actually fighting against his growing romantic feelings towards Shu Nian. Since he was young, the concept of love and marriage always involved man and woman. That’s why the idea of two men falling in love with each other scares him, as it might mean that he has failed to fulfill the archaic concept of his duty as a man. Which one of them is to become the head of the family? His inner turmoil reminds us once more that it is hard to accept ourselves truly. However, constant denials will only push us further away from true happiness. Well, at the end of the day, it is indeed acceptance that will give us peace of mind and lead us to joy in life.
Although I feel content with the story being offered, I still think that the plot is quite predictable. It doesn’t have an element of surprise, which, in a way, makes the storyline kind of dull. Moreover, some plot holes needed to be addressed by the writer. For example, the scene where Xie Yan finds Shu Nian’s rented room and saves him from the rapist – this scene is never explained. Viewers can only assume that Xie Yan uses his connections and power to find the location of his adopted ‘brother,’ but we can never be certain of what actually happened in that scene. Knowing that it’s only the first half of the story, I will give the writer a second chance to blow our mind with a stronger and more compelling storyline. The issues being discussed in the movie are interesting enough to be further explored. Apart from that, I think that both Meng Rui and Wang Bowen have done such a wonderful job in portraying their characters. Both have been able to accurately express the feelings and thoughts of their characters, which makes viewers believe that they’re actually Xie Yan and Shu Nian.
Moreover, the chemistry between the two main leads is undeniable. They look comfortable acting against each other, and they’re able to convey the emotions of both characters effectively, not only with words but also gestures. If I didn’t know that they’re actors, I would’ve assumed that they are a couple in real life.
Despite my dissatisfaction with the plot, I still find this movie heartwarming as it portrays the progression of human relationships that is odd and beautiful at the same time. I especially love the scene where Xie Yan embraces Shu Nian in his hug after fighting the rapist that was sent by Jiang Yao. For me, that scene symbolizes Xie Yan’s readiness to accept his true self, as well as his commitment to protect Shu Nian at all costs. After all, love contains magical power that gives us the strength to fight against all the odds. And it is love that can make us feel complete.
Opening with Shu Nian being surprised by the return of his Master Xie Yan who tackles him from behind onto the table, it’s evident the two are more friends than master and servant. The premise is set with Xie Yan’s honeyed words and the flashback showing how he bought Shu Nian as a child. The movie grows interesting with the entry of Xie Yan’s girlfriend, Jiang Yao.
Despite the angry confrontation with his girlfriend and rude statements about homosexuality, Xie Yan refuses to sleep anywhere but with Shu Nian. He holds him intimately and decides where he will sleep and that he is not allowed to date any woman because he belongs to Xie Yan.
The first part is replete with inconsistencies throughout, and I think the intention was for these moments to be explained later. The suspension of my disbelief as the film goes on continues. It’s a risk creating the film this way because there are no guarantees that the viewer will sit around and wait for the plot to make sense. That said, Wang Bowen and Meng Rui have very charming chemistry and propel the movie forward as you view their thoughts and feelings and actions toward each other.
The film continues its serious turn as things between Xie Yan, and Shu Nian escalate. Xie Yan becomes more handsy with the teasing of Shu Nian, which makes him confused because of the homophobic things said at the start of the movie.
Finally, Xie Yan makes a move to have Shu Nian sent away as a business training trip to America. At the same time, Jiang has been toying with Shu Nian by torturing him emotionally. It’s a heartbreaking scene done very well with a great soundtrack and close up shots of Meng Rui’s indecisive face.
The scene where thugs break into the apartment and threaten Shu Nian was particularly difficult to watch. It broke my heart that he assumed it was Xie Yan who sent them, but by this point so much has happened, it’s not a far leap to make that assumption. Shu Nian is a strong man and refuses to do what they say, and things take a violent and twisted turn. This scene is so well done; even with a black cloth on his head, you can feel the emotion radiating off Wang Bowen because of his sheer amazing talent.
Shu Nian refuses to be run off despite the beating he has received; the scene was done in slow motion to compensate for the not the best acting for the actual hits being thrown. These actions inspire the thugs to try and rape Shu Nian as a way of getting him to submit: A knock at the door stops them, and one goes to see who it is and its Xie Yan. He flies into a blinding rage and beats the men. Afterward, he holds Shu Nian and promises to take care of him. The film ends with them in bed, and wounds bandaged about to start something, I hope. Uncontrolled Love is an eccentric film that dips between psychological drama and emotional drama effortlessly. Well written, but poorly paced – some scenes happen very fast while others drag on. Things I thought were random were actually just meant to get me to look at these characters differently when referenced later. The acting is some of the best, the plot and the actors are the best part of the movie. It has substance and doesn’t shy away from the darker parts of being a kept person. The love story is a bit hard to take as you watch Xie Yan do everything he can to hurt Shu Nian. But that’s what part 2 is for.