'Yolo' review: Inspiring tale full of gut punches and dedication from its star

As it endured Du’s punches, the sandbag was happy that it had at least one fan by its side. — Photos: Handout

Director: Jia Ling
Cast: Jia Ling, Lei Jiayin, Zhang Xiaofei, Zhao Haiyan, Zhang Qi, Xu Jun Cong, Bu Yu, Yang Zi

You have to admire Chinese actress and director Jia Ling’s dedication towards this film – she literally puts her own body on the line to make the central theme of Yolo work.

The 41-year-old comedian reportedly used to weigh more than 100kg, and put on an additional 20kg to prepare for the role of overweight, unemployed social recluse Du Leying.

She then proceeded to lose 50kg in nearly a year in order to mirror Du’s transformation in the film into a lean, mean boxing machine.

Yolo, which opens in Malaysian cinemas on Mar 21, is a Chinese remake of the critically acclaimed Japanese film 100 Yen Love. Jia directs and stars as Du, who has been bumming at her parents home for 10 years, doing nothing but sleep and eat all day, despite efforts by her parents and sister Ledan (Zhang Xiaofei) to get her off the couch.

Punching the sun isn't going to make the weather less hot, you know.Punching the sun isn't going to make the weather less hot, you know.

One day, after a literal fight with Ledan, she decides to move out to live on her own and gets a waitress job at a barbecue restaurant in order to pay for her own rent.

A series of coincidental quirks then leads to her meeting boxing coach Hao Kun (Lei Jiayin), whom she becomes infatuated with, and after another series of misunderstandings and misinterpretations, starts to learn boxing under his tutelage.

However, just when she thinks she’s got her life back on track, it starts to come crashing down around her again, as one embarrassing setback after another, as well as a number of personal betrayals leads to a dramatic transformation on her part.

Hey, pink is nice on men too – didn’t you see the I’m Just Ken dance at the Oscars the other day?Hey, pink is nice on men too – didn’t you see the I’m Just Ken dance at the Oscars the other day?

While said physical transformation, when it happens, is undoubtedly remarkable, the movie takes its time to get to that point.

Almost two-thirds of Yolo’s runtime is focused on making Du’s life miserable, as the closest people around her take advantage of her shy, timid demeanour and her willingness to give everything to the people she loves, even to if it is detrimental to herself.

Yes, I get that we need to see her hit rock bottom to see her rise up again, but boy was it painful to watch at times.

Jia piles misery after misery on Du, and just when you think things could not possibly get any worse, one gut-wrenching flashback montage shows us that it was actually even worst than what we previously thought.

The restaurant's steak tenderizing methods were somewhat unorthodox.The restaurant's steak tenderizing methods were somewhat unorthodox.

Still, the fact that so much time is dedicated to this part of the movie arguably made her eventual metamorphosis into from shy cocooned recluse to confident, strong boxer much more impactful (though the execution was a little rushed, to be honest).

While fans may be more familiar with Jia as a comedian, her dramatic acting chops are in fine form here – physical transformation aside, Jia nails Du’s emotional growth perfectly.

One scene in which the confident, strong boxer looks in a mirror and sees her shy, reclusive past self looking back at her is especially poignant – it truly reflects not just Du’s journey, but also Jia’s own efforts in transforming herself for the role.

Quick, someone play the 'Eye Of The Tiger'!Quick, someone play the 'Eye Of The Tiger'!

Scenes like that really highlight Jia’s prowess as a director as well – another standout scene is a long tracking shot of Du returning home after one particular hard-hitting setback that she then returns to in that momentous flashback montage, heightening the impact even further with a devastating reveal.

There’s a lot to like about Yolo – while Jia does lay on the melodrama and misery a bit too much at times, her own strong performance as well as the physical journey she goes through (which is detailed in a series of behind the scenes shots at the end of the film) makes it worth a watch.

8 10


Inspiring tale fuelled by extreme dedication by star and director

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Yolo , Jia Ling


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