I never heard of Jay Chou before, but simply based on this film alone he seems to be quite a talent. Secret [Bu Neng Shuo De. Mi Mi] is really his film, as he acts, directs, plays the piano and serves as singer/songwriter. That's a lot for a guy not even in his thirties. It's even more impressive how he manages to weave all his talents into a solid whole, easily defining a style of his own.
The core of Secret sounds pretty cliché, with Chou playing a pretty boy starting school and falling in love with the school's outcast. The first part of the film really doesn't go much behind its premise and doesn't intend to be anything more than a simple romantic drama. Luckily Chou is helped by good performances of the entire cast and some solid cinematography, which makes it all very easy to bear.
Apart from the love story there is a big musical angle too, resulting in a few nice scenes on the piano, the most interesting one being the piano battle between Chou and the school's biggest piano talent. It brings some fresh ideas to the film which at that time is really nothing more than a solid genre piece. It's of course also a good way for Chou to demonstrate his talents on the piano. And impressive it is.
The path for the film seems fixed after the first part, but Chou knows how to surprise. Halfway through he adds a magical twists to the story elevating the film above many of its peers. While at the same time it adds to the drama and sentiment, it never crosses the border of becoming a true melodrama as the fantastic elements keep the film from turning into a simple tearjerker.
This magical twists also allows Chou to play with the visuals some more, resulting in several beautifully shot and constructed scenes. In places, the CGi is a tad too intrusive but that is easily forgotten as it is never there just for visual kicks alone. The soundtrack remains pretty active and is not what you'd call subtle, but since it is integrated so well into the whole story it never becomes bothersome and Chou hits the rights notes time after time again.
It's nice to see so many things go right in a film like this. Visually Secret is solid and often stunning, the acting is equally solid and with Anthony Wong completing the cast you really can't go wrong. While the film starts of in pretty classical manner, halfway through it really blooms and turns into a very quirky and lovable genre film creating an impressive universe of its own. Chou really shines as a director in the second part of Secret, making me curious to any new output will see of him.
It's nice to see young talent like this thriving. As a whole, the films feels a bit poppy and maybe a bit too flimsy, apart from that it's one big solid romance with a pretty cool twist and a magnificent ending leaving you pretty fulfilled after the film has finished.