VERY IMPORTANT NOTICE

A must read, if you don't already know ...








Written by Funn Lim


"When Kwai Sang returned, his mouth said "Kwai Sang, you're my friend" but his eyes would look at Shun Fung, with that "I want to grab you, I WANT YOU" look with Shun Fung going "I too WANT YOU" look. Active libidos at work ..."




SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!







WARNING
This is an extremely long analysis of this series. Spoilers alert! Spoilers alert!

Title Deciphered
Interesting title, Country Spirit. Spirit of the countryside, which the content of this series sorely lack. The Chinese title is more to the point. "Jau Si Gu Heong Soon" which basically and literally means The Wine Is So Smooth or something like that. Which doesn't mean this series is a guide to the finer stuff like white wine, red wine or even samsu. It is about Chinese wine, more like rice wine.

Released In
2002

Episodes
40

Cast - Character
Gordon Lam - Ah Soon
Charmaine Sheh - Shun Fung
Sharon Tang - Ah Yiu / Little Miss
Tsang Wai Kuen - Kao Chan
Joe Ma - Kwai Sang
Chun Pui - Khoo Sai Loong
Suet Lei - Soon Ma


Summary
Is this series about wine and how it affects the lives of those who make it, produce it, sell it and love it? No. This series is about revenge, love, hate, jealousy, biting the forbidden fruit, sacrifice, death, war, filial piety and forgiveness. You may ask, where is wine then? Well, like most Miss Hong Kong who are like a vase or wallpaper, so is wine in this series.

A Note From The Reviewer
So that you have some sort of mental and emotional preparation, I absolutely, with my whole heart, soul and liver, so very hate this nonsense of a series. You may tune off now.

The Plot
In one simple un-categorised paragraph, the whole story is ...

One small village lives a wealthy family who runs the wine producing giant called Khoo Kuk Yeung. Young brother runs the show whilst older brother who is talented in tasting wine but useless in everything else spends his days drinking, getting drunk and plotting his younger brother's downfall with his own useless son and useless wife. But younger brother has a good looking, tall and intelligent son named Kwai Sang who refuses to run the business, prefers to be a patriot and fight the war. Much to the chagrin of his father and joy of the others, son refuses to marry the girl of his father's choice. At the meantime young male servant, Ah Soon comes from a sordid background; mom is nuts and dad is non existent (a former employee of Ku Kuk Yeung who impregnated Soon's poor mother and ran away blaming our boss for breaking up the "family"). But he is a good guy, always ready to please and very little self esteem. He is secretly in love with the ever nice and a budding philosopher, Little Miss but was afraid to admit that to her face, since he is so down below and she is precious, after all she is the beloved baby sister of the boss and she is in love with Kao Chan, an angry but talented employee of the business. Things got a bit dramatic when Kao Chan and Kwai Sang supposedly died in an explosion of a ship driven by Shun Fung's dad (her little brother was conspiring with others to smuggle some illegal stuff and because of some shuffle and fight, the whole ship exploded). Shun Fung, out of desperation as brother who was guilt ridden decided to turn good and sold himself to the Gold Mountain (present day San Francisco) as a guinea pig for a small sum of money. Shun Fung couldn't let her brother suffer, and feeling guilty about Kwai Sang's death, she volunteered to marry the dead guy, meaning she marries into the Ku family as a widow from day one. Problem is, mom in law hates her, she herself wasn't that friendly and worse still, old boss who by that time up to his neck with all the familial plotting to take over the business by his big bro at one side, and his wife and relatives on the other decided to hand over the management of the business to the little educated but couldn't care less of other people's feelings Shun Fung. It was a perfect choice and she enjoys nothing more than to cut their spending and repay the boss for his kindness. Assisted by the ever helpful Ah Soon, she began to fall for him but decided to take a backseat to ensure Little Miss and Ah Soon comes together. They did, but at the end of the day, Ah Soon on his wedding day rather dramatically realises that he loved Shun Fung. Whilst nobody knew why he ran away, because of Little Miss who was very forgiving decided to become an old maid and refused to hate Ah Soon. So Ah Soon could still remain as an employee and there begins the secret affair of the heart between the lady boss and the male servant. But the plotting and conniving cheating stuff continues on full scale and with the return of a Kao Chan lookalike (who was actually a different person, a son of the present war lord who has his eyes on Little Miss) and the father of Ah Soon who wanted nothing more than to see the boss suffer, things got a bit more dramatic than usual. The high point of the drama was when there returns Kwai Sang who not only didn't die, but began to fall for Shun Fung. But Shun Fung loves Ah Soon. Even begged him to run away with her which he did, only to return when older brother ousted boss (Khoo Sai Loong) from his position and into jail thanks to Kao Chan lookalike. Little Miss had little choice but to agree to marry Kao Chan lookalike but well, that's beside the point. Because Shun Fung and Ah Soon was soon discovered to be having the affair of the heart (but not body) and Ah Soon was dragged to be drowned. But Kwai Sang came in the nick of time and divorced Shun Fung, thus saving them both. But then things get worse and worse...

The Ending Revealed
Please highlight the following from [ to ] to read the contents.

[So Shun Fung and Ah Soon get together and began their love affair openly and finally, with the blessing of many, Ah Soon proposed to Shun Fung. At the meantime Kwai Sang fell for --- and they too planned their wedding. One day they were out shopping when a bunch of army fella captured all the men and forced them into war. Shun Fung tearfully cried she will wait for Ah Soon's return. On the ship transporting them to the war zone, Kwai Sang bumped into his mortal arch enemy, the man who ruined his military career. Threats of death ensued and Ah Soon valiantly pushed Kwai Sang into the river and the last was heard was a single gun shot. 3 years later, everybody was happy but Shun Fung was not until she heard the war was over. Happily she ran to the pier and met with former Khoo family butler/brother of Khoo Sai Loong's dead wife who told her Ah Soon died 3 years ago. Sad, Shun Fung decided to repeat the past and this time marry a dead man taken for dead for real. Some time past again and Shun Fung went back to pushing bamboo sampan over the river and she sat smiling. The next scene, her hair is kinda between white, black and gray but no wrinkles and there she was, being told the modern times has taken over her livelihood and when she was crying like there's no tomorrow, there was an old man opposite the river and he was Ah Soon. Happiness flooded her saddened heart and for a moment, there I was thinking that was the ultra-poignant ending when suddenly zoom back there she was, still gorgeous and still young. It was, alas only a dream. There she sat enjoying the gentle breeze when she heard some music, the music which she used to play with a wine bottle. There at the opposite side of the river stood a still young Ah Soon. Leaping with joy and it was not a dream, Shun Fung quickly pushed the rack towards Ah Soon who had jumped into the river, and she scooped him up from the river and they embraced. At the end, they live a life of utter bliss, pushing the bamboo raft over the gentle river. THE END.]

What about everybody else? What happened?
In the tradition of all TVB series, it will start with loads of people but in the end, dictated by public preferences, the ending is usually catered for the most favourite couple of all. Watch Seven Sisters to see this phenomena in full effect.

So I wouldn't know what happened to the boss, the wife, the son, the dog?
Nope because they don't matter. This is a series called Country Spirit, Ah Soon's other name is Country and Shun Fung's other name is Spirit. So basically the whole last episode is about these two people. Yes, it's unfair but I can't change that since I am not Sir Run Run Shaw.

Comments
Plain Love I was a depressing series, but nevertheless very moving. It was a small production and somehow the smaller the production, the more sincere the storyline.

Plain Love II was one of my favourite series the year it was released. The idea of merging the love for tea and the many relationships affected by it was not only original, it was very touching as well. The ending was also perfect, because there was this heroine who simply walked away and came back years later to claim back her man when he was ready for love. I find that notion very rare in TVB series.

Now this series has been nicknamed Plain Love III, though this series is less about land and more about wine. The actual fact is it is less about wine and more about, and please pardon my language, bitching amongst family, strangers, friends and foes. In fact everybody fights everybody in this series, that it is such an amazement that at the end everybody forgives everybody. This is a series about extremes, there's no in between. From the first crowded scene to the last quiet scene, the whole series reminds me of ATE, except there's no car chases or vengeful deaths, but enough of drama to put me to sleep.

No no, I love drama, I do. But this series is so overblown in everything, it somewhat became sort of a joke to watch. I can't find fault in the performances, except for a distinct 2 (both are ladies) but rather, it's the story itself that is a farce.

The Story
We have a basic story about wine, but the process of making wine is so cumbersome, so unattractive, I dislike the very sight of it. It's even worse when there's the scene where the wine making process is completed and they have wine. First time they scream "The wine is processed! The wine is processed!" is indeed quite a happy event. I mean all the hard work you know. For a moment you thought it takes a decade to make a few bottles of wine. Then you kinda realise this is their business, so probably they have completed the wine process everyday, 5 times a day. To hear them shout "The wine is processed! The wine is processed!" every other episode is not only irritating, it is unbelievably fake ecstasy. I can't imagine a wine maker doing that every time for decades because how many time can you be so unbelievably happy for such a usual and normal process? And there I was sitting there, asking my family the question which I am sure at one point must be in the viewers' mind;

"Is there a time when the wine doesn't drip out of the tube? Like the wine will say "nope, I won't come out, nope, no way, not one drop"?"

But that's just one side of the whole problem. Let's talk about the characters shall we?

The Characters
We have literally hundreds of people in any given one scene. Sure, lots of people but only about 10 of them matters. And in 10 of them, each having their own personalities and problems, it's quite a chore to keep up. I really didn't care much for all the characters, maybe except for poor Kwai Sang. The rest are like cardboard characters. Why you may ask? Their actions are so silly to the point of disbelief.

Take for example Ah Soon. A servant with low self esteem, mom gets insulted and all he does was nothing. A coward. But unlike his character in Plain Love II, he is much braver in here, the problem was his own view of things. I am a servant therefore I am unworthy. But guess what, he falls for Little Miss. Now that's a catch, and a difficult one as well. Years he loved her and finally he had her and guess what? He set his eyes on an even harder catch, the widow of the family, Shun Fung. His taste for women goes higher in rank as it climbs higher in difficulties and oppositions. His love affair with Shun Fung is really unbelievably unreal to the point of "They're in love? When did that happened?". Of course you can say Shun Fung did loads of stuff for him but I disagree. She didn't do much, he did a lot for her, that's true. To have him suddenly and very dramatically ran out of the wedding to meet Shun Fung and confess his love for her in the rain is like a Qiong Yao story which is so lots of drama but very empty in emotions. I can't buy their undying love affair. When Kwai Sang returned, his mouth said "Kwai Sang, you're my friend" but his eyes would look at Shun Fung, with that "I want to grab you, I WANT YOU" look with Shun Fung going "I too WANT YOU" look. Active libidos at work, not true love. I felt like slapping both of them. Such betrayal! Such forbidden lust! For heaven's sake, woman! Your husband is back. He is not a jerk but really good man! Give him a chance. YOU! You two timing supposedly best friend of a weasel! How could you?! HOW?!??!?! And the ending? When Kwai Sang divorces Shun Fung, both of them still had the audacity to stand before Kwai Sang. Everybody of course forgave them at the end, and some were so worried for their love when they were separated during the war you know, it's sickening to watch. I disagree with their love affair, it's not even forbidden actually. It's just wrong and may lightning strike them I say! Poor Little Miss. Poor Kwai Sang.

Take now Shun Fung for example. Her character started out as stubborn, opinionated, very strong. OK, so women tend to be the weaker sex. We may talk big and strong but our hearts are fragile little things, right? I understand Shun Fung is capable of moments of weakness. But guess what? The last 10 episodes or so, she has been crying so often, and when I say cry she really cried like no tomorrow, I thought what a cry baby! You know how Charmaine Sheh cries, rather beautifully some times, but in here it's so annoying to see such a strong character be reduced to such a farce! Where is the Shun Fung I saw in the first few episodes? The attitude? All gone? Because of love? And the way Shun Fung cries when during war time when Ah Soon gets separated with her and he was on a boat and she was left behind with Kwai Sang. There she stood at the pier in utter disbelief, crying "How can you leave me? Ah Soon will never leave me! He promised, come back, come back!!". Crying like her father just died. I tell you when her brother was in jail or when she was forced to marry a dead man, she didn't even cry that hard. I was watching this scene, my patience all lost. I mean for heaven's sake, you know why he was on the boat you dim witted airhead! Stop crying like a baby!

Ok, some more flaws. Take Ah Soon's mother for example. I'll elaborate more in the performances section later. I don't understand though, is she crazy, plain stupid, mentally challenged or maybe someone with an IQ of a 5 year old? Because everybody kept saying she is crazy but I see a low IQ person. And we have two men vying for her affections when she was young!

Take Little Miss and her relationship with Kao Chan. Little Miss, so very calm, such a bad businesswoman, a good wine maker, stable, thoughtful and so Liza Wong, that is preachy. Always, every sentence is like a quotable quote, and that is not a good thing. Preachy preachy preachy. The only great thing about her is that she is a good person at the end of the day, a better person than Shun Fung of course because she is genuinely noble.

You may ask at this point, is Shun Fung such a bad lady?

My answer is no, but she is not noble either. She may have married for a very sad reason, but when Kwai Sang came back and confessed his love for her, time and time again gave her a chance to give their marriage a go, never forcing her, she never gave him a chance. Her eyes was on Ah Soon. And between the two, Ah Soon is what I would call a hypocrite. I am very surprised nobody ever forced him to leave the village at that point. Of course they all tried to drown him, but after the divorce, Kwai Sang though still relatively mad at the lovers didn't chase them out. It is this forgivingness factor that I find it very hard to stomach.

Worst Factor
By the end of this series, everybody forgives everybody for everything and anything. Don't understand? For example ...

Kwai Sang forgives Ah Soon and Shun Fung for the betrayal
- ok, so I think it's a good thing, after all Kwai Sang was able to let go. But it was too easy.

Little Miss forgives Ah Soon for running out of the wedding
- she's very forgiving, so no comment.

The whole Khoo family forgives Ah Soon and Shun Fung
- unbelievable but true. But then the war intervened, so what's to hate?

The boss, Khoo Sai Loong forgives his big brother
- ok, very touching. After all, his big brother at the end of the day tried his best to maintain the family business.

Big brother forgives his own useless son
- considering that he became blind because the son was slowly poisoning him to take control of the business, I find this very very unlikely. But then blood is thicker than hatred I guess.

In the end, it's like a fairy tale. Misunderstanding, love, plotting, conniving, fighting, tragedy, separation, reunion, forgiveness, ending. Exact order of this series. Worst factor, is the predictability of it all.

Best Factor & Best Scene
The relationship between Khoo Sai Loong and his older brother. We all know the brother resents the fact that his dead father left the business to the baby brother, that was why he began to drink heavily. Plotting and taking over the business, in the end all intentions are the same; the business must stay within the family. In the end two old men sitting by the lovely waterfall, one blind, the other crippled, began to chit chat for the first time. When they discover they had no alternative but to walk home alone without the help of Little Miss who quietly went away thus creating an opportunity for these two feuding brothers to talk, these two brothers reunited in the simplest way. Khoo Sai Loong acknowledged that he didn't really give his brother a chance, and his own brother simply created problems and threw away any chances. But in that moment that can bring a tear or two to any hardened viewer, the blind carried the crippled, and the crippled directed the blind the way home. The crippled gained his legs through his big brother and the blind gained his sight through his baby brother. In the end you will wonder, why did they even fight? All those wasted years....

Worst Scene(s)
A combination of a lot of scenes.

Some time ago I watched a Korean series called Hotelier. There was one scene I remember quite well.

There was this scene where the villain plotted to destroy a hotel he intends to buy but the hero asked why destroy the reputation of the hotel when it is the villain who has to rebuild that reputation and that rebuilding a lost reputation is very very difficult.

The same goes for this series. We have lots of people disappearing to some cave discussing how to destroy the Khoo winery and then taking over the business, they'll be able to control the business. From poisoning to making sure certain orders could not be delivered, all these will ultimately damage the winery's business and more importantly its good name. Isn't that so silly? Perhaps these people should just watch Hotelier to learn the term acquisition.

And then there's Shun Fung and Ah Soon. It's quite a wonder at the beginning nobody suspected their love affair. Ok, so no bed scenes or anything like that but they were close and always somewhere "dating". Later on, like much much later the villains used their closeness to target them, saying they're having an affair. True but not quite so, since it was an affair of the heart. But it's bad enough when one said "I will die with you" to the other. The funny thing is since time immemorial Shun Fung and Ah Soon has always been close, close enough to rub her injured feet, she rubbing his tired back, they walking closely together all the time in broad daylight with loads of people somewhere or nobody but in public. Their love affair ... very public, the village isn't exactly Grand Canyon. I was sitting there in disbelief that it took all these liars, cheats and SOBs such a long time to use their closeness to target them.

Then the thing where everybody hates Shun Fung thinking she would take over the business and makes it her own. It is very clear Shun Fung rather run away with Ah Soon than to take over the business, but everybody does everything on the basis she wants the business which is not true at all! Not only stupid villains, we have deaf villains.

And Shun Fung as the master of the house. I don't see her running the business much, except crossing her hands across the chest looking regal and basically not much else because 80% of her time was spent on either Ah Soon, his mom, Kwai Sang or Ah Soon (again). I would love to see her running the business, making it a success but none of that in this series. I find it very irritating to watch her cry all the time.

Of course we have the Kao Chan look alike except for his bushy eyebrows forcing Little Miss to marry him. Really at this point I simply don't give a damn what is going on anymore.

Lots of stuff happens in between, so many things and guess what? All of it adds up to absolute nonsense.

Worst Plot
Ah Soon and Shun Fung's undying love affair. I wasn't even aware how they began but that's besides the point. The point is their love affair was wrong in the 1st place. It's like watching Qiong Yao series, taking modern context and applying it into olden days when the rules were very much different, the mind set perhaps much narrower in terms of tradition and taking care of the family's good name and reputation. We have two selfish beings, so in love that they ran away. But at this point, Ah Soon's poor mom is all alone, Shun Fung's father and brother will be shamed.

Ok, I know you will say

"Funnnnnnnn, they love each other, that's what matters. Love conquers all! Their love affair is just so touching, I could cryyyyy"

Yes I know and I understand but it's so selfish that the woman and the man started a relationship that is impossible to begin with and wanting to end on a happier note. When you have nothing to lose, then elope all you want. But when you love your mom and your family, leaving them behind, can you honestly say you can live a blissful life with that man/woman you love without even once wondering what happened to your family back at home? The worry itself will kill this blissful marriage of yours. They have responsibilities, and Shun Fung to ask Ah Soon to run just like that without ever coming home is not only selfish, but very stupid. I expect Shun Fung to be smarter but in the end she is just one really ignorant fool. And Ah Soon? Lusty ignorant fool.

"I don't give a damn" scene
The ending, with Ah Soon swimming towards Shun Fung and hugging her at last. I prefer the 1st ending, very poignant and something different but very depressing. The real ending was supposed to elicit response from you like

"Ahhhhhhhhhhh, give me the tissue, I want to cry!"

But my response was

"Ewwwwwww, give the tissue, I want to puke!".

When you don't feel for the characters, you simply don't care what happens to them I guess.

Least Favourite Character
Between everybody in this series, it has to be Ah Soon. His betrayal to Kwai Sang is the worst for me to stomach.

Most Favourite Character
I don't have one.

Most Human Character
I agree, Shun Fung is very human but it is Khoo Sai Loong's brother who is most human. He has so much flaws, but then Sai Loong has some part to play in some of these flaws.

Most Inhuman Character
Doesn't mean cold blooded but out of this world that is Little Miss. Too perfect, sickeningly nice.

What To Expect
Lots of repetition, you get two weddings to dead people who in the end we know aren't dead, we have loads of plotting to destroy Khoo Sai Loong (many times), two cases of women who decided to pledge their lives to become unmarried but ended up with someone at the end of the day, we have loads of people forgiving loads of other people, loads of crying, screaming, shouting, betrayals...you know, ATE revisited only this time less blood more mud.

What Not To Expect
Shun Fung's hair to be ever out of place, not even when she crawled on all fours after successfully saving Khoo Sai Loong, not even dirt on her face. Oh yeah, I can see some perhaps MAC makeup you know, nice eye shadow, glossy lipstick, fancy powder, coloured fancy hair and what's funny? Even during the war they had time to look glamorous. I find it so unbelievably unbelievable! Shun Fung looked so glamorous and not even the slightest bit like a country gal she should go into showbiz! Her hair, always with the nicely trimmed bangs on her forehead, always that it becomes very frustrating to watch this series. Where is reality? None! Don't even expect a coherent storyline. I don't want logic but at least consistency. NONE!

I Don't Understand Scenes
Little Miss, even at the end remained unmarried but is seeing a guy. Good for her except that her relationship with this new guy is like unbelievably impossible. Anyway I know she's older than Ah Soon. I know she's the baby sister of two ancient looking men who still behave like little boys fighting over a toy. Anyway, she's educated. She was seeing Kao Chan for many years. She's nice and all. By the end of the series, wouldn't she be termed as a spinster? Calculating her age, she should be approaching 30 or perhaps early 30s by the end of the series? Why aren't people worried about her single status? Not one at all?

Shun Fung was chosen as the caretaker of the Khoo business. Interesting, possible but highly unlikely in those times. I think the more obvious way would be Khoo Sai Loong adopting Ah Soon as his son. Of course later he tried to do just that by agreeing to the marriage between Little Miss and Ah Soon, but well .... very complicated really.

One moment Shun Ma is crazy, next she's insane and at most times she seemed like shelacked some mental faculty, which is a mean word to say. So is she crazy, insane or someone with low IQ? Why then at the end she appeared so normal?

Everybody plots to take over Khoo business by destroying the Khoo business first, making old man Khoo looking so incompetent that somebody else must then take over for the betterment of the business. Yeah right. What about reputation huh? You may be able to destroy a business so easily, but can you rebuild a reputation built on many years of hard word, trust and integrity?

When everybody is plotting, the key characters are always in a cave somewhere, thinking about some evil take over plots. Why don't they just save their breath and spend their time making the business an even bigger success? On the same point, wouldn't anybody notice the big guns are always missing some times?

All adulterers should rejoice watching this series and wishing such a village/town exists because this is one place adulterers could still stand proud and mighty next to the rightful spouse. I am not being draconian or sexist or anything but look at the era of this series. NOBODY IS THAT UNDERSTANDING AND FORGIVING.

Whilst there are so much plotting of so many ways to bring shame to Khoo Sai Loong, the most obvious one took like episodes before there was like one or two episode exploring that option; Shun Fung and Ah Soon's secret love affair, of the heart. I mean I have never seen adulterers so open with their secret love affair; in public places (albeit a bit secluded) rubbing each other's back, rubbing the lady's feet, and what nots. Best yet, stare at each other longingly to the point everybody notices. Took those geniuses long enough to figure this one out and for once, they were right about this couple.

Last but not least, the double ending. What did it mean? That TVB wanted that original depressing ending but due to popular demand and public pressure, happy endings must be shown? I prefer the usual normal one ending. I hate being made a fool especially when I had my tissues ready. I may dislike Shun Fung but I wouldn't hope for her to grow old, all alone.

Performances Evaluated
Lots of people, but few had enough time to develop into a full fledge character.

Gordon Lam
Why did he take this role? I love his performance in the frustratingly coward Fong Yau Wai in Plain Love II. Why on Earth he reprised his role, albeit a different name, a different story but in the same timeline? It's like deja vu but none of the effectiveness and personal nature of Plain Love II. Here he is like a lusty wounded puppy. Hated his Ah Soon. His performance isn't bad but really the character sucks big time.

Charmaine Sheh
Luckily Maggie Cheung did not take this role, because it would be a disaster to her credibility as an actress with such an empty sort of role.

I confess, my least favourite (read : most hated) character that Charmaine has ever played is Chuk Kwan Hoe from the series about a Cuckoo that never appear in the series. That was the very first role she had really short hair, wore pants, had big movements and screamed at the top of her lungs. My God, her performance there, hailed as a breakthrough was the ultimate torture for me. Then there was Seven Sisters, which was not her fault other than the fact that too much focus on her character, Wong Yoke Cham when the series wasn't really about her at first. And now this one, Shun Fung. I am not going to compare her to the leads in the predecessors, I really do not care. I'll talk about her as I see her in this series.

Fake. Just one word, fake. I can't believe it. As I write this review and at the same time watching her wonderful performance in An Herbalist Affair, I can't believe she could be so bad in one show and so good in the other. Of course An Herbalist Affair was much later. One telling scene where Charmaine has much to learn in her emotional output (other than the obvious shouting, screaming and her best asset, the ability to cry pitifully on cue) is the scene where she was wondering whether should she say yes to a marriage to Kwai Sang who was supposedly dead. She sat at the pier, looking at the calm river, thinking, contemplating perhaps the life she could only dream of, the freedom that she will never see again and being in a marriage to which she will gain no love but animosity (since step mum in law hates her). And how was her performance then? She looked blank, calmer than in later scene where she thought Ah Soon left her all by herself during the war. There wasn't a tear in sight, when that scene could have been more poignant if she had just silently shed a tear or two. None whatsoever. And the way she carried the role of Shun Fung towards the end, from poor stubborn girl to a proud manager of the Khoo family to at the end, absolutely bland boring woman in love. Of course we could say Shun Fung is actually a weak woman forced by circumstances to be strong but if you watched her performance from episode one, I am sure you would agree, her Shun Fung is more like a woman pretending to be strong when she is a (heaven forbid!) a closet-dependant woman clinging to her man like her life depends on it. I find that insulting for Shun Fung herself, because I was lead to believe she's much tougher than that. When she avenged for the insults she endured on the other characters, of course most would rejoice, after all these Khoo family, they're bad people. But I find her vindictive and the more her eyes wandered towards Ah Soon, the more I disliked her Shun Fung, because at the end of the day Charmaine's lack lustre performance gave me an impression her Shun Fung is such a "little" woman. If you know Cantonese you would know what I mean.

All in all, her character simply irks me, big time. Doesn't help when she looked like a darn princess. I mean Charmaine is a lady-like feminine lady you know, and she is very very pretty and when she goes acting so tom boyish and arrogant and all, she looked more snobbish than misunderstood. No words can express my feelings towards her performance in this series except, "FAKE".

Sharon Tang
She doesn't look a bit like a little miss. She looks dried. And extremely preachy. Her performance is, I don't know, weird but still effective. Just don't expect much.

Chun Pui and Loh Hoi Pang
What a pair! Excellent performances by these two veterans, a special kudos to Loh Hoi Pang who did so well in those few final scenes, blind and all. The young ones should learn from these two veterans. Sometimes going over the top isn't the best acting and no acting at all isn't always called subtle acting.

Joe Ma
Interesting casting decision, but doesn't quite fit the role of Kwai Sang. I don't quite see him as weak. Whilst he is not a bad actor, he is definitely not someone who can carry the role of Kwai Sang whom I feel has a tendency to be a wimp. Steven Ma would have been perfect though.

Winnie Yeung
Not a very capable actress but can't expect much from an actress that is usually mediocre in all of her performances. She fares much better as a host though, which is very strange.

The rest of the cast is quite alright, though frankly, I feel the role played by Yuen Wah is a bit how shall I say it, out of point with this series? Very silly performance of a silly man.

Now I have decided to save the "best" for last. Yes, this one actress has made me realised that there IS a difference between bad acting and absolutely horrible acting to the point of making me the viewer feel absolutely so frustrating that I feel like begging her, please retire! Like Sonija Kwok, please retire. And this one ... Yes, that is ...

Suet Lei
You know, it's a myth. Not ALL older generation actors can act very well or even decently. This lady is one prime example. Consistently bad in all of her performances, I was told this lady was quite an actress in her younger days, but then wooden acting were at its prime decades ago, so she could have been an Oscar contender. Her acting in here is so bad, I do not know how to describe her performance. Maybe I should just try describing the character she is supposed to play and the way she is actually playing her.

Soon Ma is a pitiful lady you know. Jilted by a jealous lover and having to raise her illegitimate son in an era where unwed mothers are a taboo, she lived her life in such a pitiful state that well, you kinda pity Ah Soon. That is on paper only. Because she was jilted (rather unfairly), she had I feel a nervous breakdown and thus resulting her in living her life as someone still dwelling in her dreams, her hopes that one day that scum of a man will return to her. Her days are often filled with smiles, because let's face it, no insane person in this world is ever sad. Once in a while she is tricked, duped and coerced into doing something utterly stupid, and thus embarrassing herself, and she realises it, somehow. But she still loved the way she is, insane. Remember, INSANE.

Now this actress, Suet Lei, the way she portrayed this actress is oh so wrong! Half the time she looks crazy enough, and yet she could recognise Ah Soon, she could recognise everybody but yet she acted the way she did; childlike. Ah Soon is like a parent to her, Shun Fung the mother but then this lady can cook, clean and well, basically function like a normal person except she isn't normal. By episode 2 I came to a conclusion Soon Ma, thanks in no part to Suet Lei's awful performance that she is not insane. Nope. She is mentally malformed. Or in the most primitive way to describe her, retarded. I hate that word but her Soon Ma looks more like a 8 year old trapped in an old lady's body than a normal person because of some severe traumatic event became insane. With such an awful performance coupled with many characters that shouldn't be in this series, this series became a farce. I still could not decide what illness Soon Ma has, because at last miraculously she's oh so normal again. Excuse me? Please spare me the pain and just give her some minor role or better yet, just retire.

Verdict
This series, the story, many of it characters ... reminds me of some big time family drama which started as one and finally became nothing more than the usual run of the mill love story. This love story isn't in the Titanic league. Not at all. It's more like Qiong Yao you know, tragedies after tragedies, but no one dies which is a pity because at least a death or two could have made this series slightly enjoyable entertainment. Everybody who has watched this series reportedly became a fan of Charmaine Sheh, and a bigger fan of Gordon Lam. Some even hailed it as Charmaine's breakthrough role. Perhaps they should consider watching its predecessors, because bigger names in a cast, bigger sets, bigger everything doesn't always spell blockbuster. In the process this series with it's lack lustre performance by the leads, the ridiculous over the top storyline and ineffective costumes losses one vital ingredient which made the predecessors known as Plain Love I and II so very interesting to watch; heart. The productions were simpler, the characters not too complicated and yet not very simple people and the most important of all, there is a coherent storyline. Not like this piece of junk.

Unless you're the biggest, most loyal fan of Charmaine Sheh and what nots, please take my advice; go watch Plain Love I or better yet, Plain Love II.

Rating
I am being much too kind to give this a but any lesser rating I would have to rate Eternal Happiness -1 out of 5.

Interesting Observation
The song, again by Jacky Cheung and another Chan (this time, Kit Chan) was horrible. The end song sung by Jacky Cheung with the "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH" sounds much much better. Nothing can be compared though to the romantic lyrics of Plain Love II, again sung by Jacky Cheung and a Priscilla Chan.

Interesting Observation II
I know you must be wondering, why do I keep saying this series, its predecessors, Plain Love I and II when the title is Country Spirit. Well, this is Plain Love III. Same place, same concept, same era, same stuff, same same same. Name it anything they want and it's still Plain Love III to me.

Now, part 1 is about land and farmers. Part 2 is about tea and it's makers. Part 3 is about wine and it's producers. So part 4 is what? Tofu makers? I know, there is a good title;

"Tau Fu Si Ku Heung Wat" which basically means "The Tofu is so smooth".

Quite a nice title.


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