Last updated on January 20th, 2024 at 03:19 am
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I’m so excited to talk about Hidden Love because it’s been so long since I found a modern drama I love.
When the trailer first came out, I was already excited about how the show will play out although I was still skeptical. There have been many times where the trailer seemed promising but the actual drama didn’t live up to expectations.
This blog post title should already be telling how I feel about this drama but I’ll go into the nitty-gritty details in this Hidden Love Drama Review.
Let’s get started!
Hidden Love Synopsis
Adapted from a novel, this drama is about the love story between Sang Zhi and Duan Jia Xu.
Sang Zhi first met her older brother’s friend, Duan Jia Xu when she was in middle school and had an instant crush as soon as she laid eyes on him. They meet again a few years later when Sang Zhi is in university. Through close interactions, they slowly develop into a relationship.
Hidden Love Main Characters
Her home life is typical for the baby girl in the family. She grew up in a loving home with her older brother, mom, and dad.
When she meets Duan Jia Xu as a teenager for the first time, she was infatuated with him immediately.
Like all innocent school girls who have a crush on an older guy, there are a lot of shy glances and wanting to see him as much as possible.
However, just because Sang Zhi falls for Duan Jia Xu does not mean she spends all her time obsessing over him. She has her own life – she likes to doodle and hang out with her friends and family.
When they begin to get involved romantically, she is steadfast in her love for him even though people around her disapproved of them being together. Although she’s sheltered, she knows how to stand up for herself, him, and their relationship. Her need to protect him even though she’s younger is sweet.
Duan Jia Xu
You can’t help but root for Duan Jia Xu because it’s finally the nice guy’s turn to shine.
He’s everything you can want in a future boyfriend – flirty, considerate, gentle, warm, patient, attentive, observant, and caring.
Jia Xu is pretty much the perfect guy although he does have a complicated family background.
It’s not hard to see why Sang Zhi goes gaga over him.
Duan Jia Xu is like Hua Ze Lei from Meteor Garden’s F4.
If you haven’t watched Meteor Garden yet, you should. This drama has been remade several times but it’s still a classic.
Sang Yan is Sang Zhi’s older brother and a close friend of Duan Jia Xu. Although the siblings constantly bicker, Sang Yan has a lot of love for his younger sister. He’s the one that’s there for her when she needs someone.
Sang Yan is protective of Sang Zhi so when he first found out about the two of them being together, he was initially hesitant and angry but eventually approved because he knows Jia Xu is a responsible guy and would treat his younger sister right.
Sang Yan played by Victor Ma and Sang Zhi played by Zhao Lu Si have amazing sibling chemistry. It’s extremely believable to the audience.
As a supporting character, he stood out in this Chinese drama.
He reminds me of Teng She from Love and Redemption.
Both actors might not be very well-known to the public but through their supporting role, they are gaining love and attention from the public for how well they played their character.
Hidden Love Drama Review – Their Love Story
Their relationship is a slow-burn romance. It started as a one-sided crush but eventually developed into a full-fledged relationship.
It was clear how Sang Zhi felt about Duan Jia Xu from the start although it was just an innocent crush.
When someone has a crush, doing nice things for them can create misunderstandings but he was doing things for her as older brother.
Although Duan Jia Xu only saw her as a younger sister in the beginning, he was always observant of her wants and needs.
It’s the little details that show he stands out from the rest of her brothers’ friends like carrying her backpack for her, getting the toy she wants, and noticing when she’s on her period/what she’s allergic to.
He did start seeing her differently after receiving care and attention from her as an adult. He wasn’t used to being taken care of after being independent for so long.
When his feelings for her bloomed, he went full speed ahead.
Their love story is a bit slower in the beginning, especially in the romance department but it’s a good build-up.
They have insane chemistry and it carried the whole show. Their romance is also not too exaggerated so it makes it believable and easy to digest.
Hidden Love Drama Review – Favourite Episodes
There are too many to name but if I absolutely HAD to pick my top few, these would be it:
1) Episode 11 – Restaurant + Snow Scene
Thanks to Chen Zhe Yuan’s phenomenal acting, you can visibly see Duan Jia Xu’s feelings for Sang Zhi start to change after the restaurant scene with Jiang Ying.
2) Episode 12
Sang Zhi gets drunk and Duan Jia Xu takes care of her. It’s a pretty funny scene but it turns emotional and he has a heartfelt conversation with her (well, she’s asleep) while they’re in his car.
3) Episode 13
There was a lot of romance and jealousy in this episode. Duan Jia Xu needed that push from his friend, Qian Fei, and Jiang Ming to realize his romantic feelings for Sang Zhi.
Also, best epilogue scene!
4) Episode 15
Duan Jia Xu starts to actively pursue her and is even straightforward with her about his feelings and intentions.
5) Episode 18
They recently entered an official boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. A lot of flirtatious moments and they each test the other to see what their boundaries are romantically.
6) Episode 23
It’s a heavy episode with romantic and emotional scenes between Duan Jia Xu and Sang Zhi.
What I Liked
Since there are only 25 episodes, the team had to use those minutes to the max.
Hidden Love has hardly any skippable scenes. The plot centers around the main two leads so there are no unnecessary subplots and side couples. It’s something other Chinese dramas can take note of.
2) I kind of love that Duan Jia Xu was a normal guy. He’s your average male lead that you could meet in real life. Yes, he’s handsome and tall but he’s not rich or mean or cold. He’s just a nice guy and maybe it’s because I’ve watched too many Chinese historical dramas but I’m used to my male leads being more emotionally distant.
This shows that not all male leads have to be cold and unfeeling. You can be gentle and kind and still get the girl in the end.
3) Both are wary of how to behave around each other when they weren’t officially together yet.
I also like that he’s not too aggressive in pursuing her. Instead, he’s testing the waters to read her reaction so he doesn’t push her boundaries. Some male leads in dramas make these grand gestures to woo the girl. It can be cute if the male lead can pull it off but in real life, it would be extremely annoying if it’s coming from someone you have no interest in.
4) The epilogues at the end of the episode remind me of A Love So Beautiful. There’s more content for viewers to hang on to even though the episode has ended.
What I Didn’t Like
There’s not a lot I don’t like about Hidden Love but here goes:
1) It was uncomfortable to watch Chen Zhe Yuan being paired up with a younger Sang Zhi (the show used a much younger actress when Sang Zhi first meets Duan Jia Xu) even though nothing romantic was going on at the time.
The two leads only had a 5 year age difference in the drama so why didn’t the casting team use a younger actor to play a young Duan Jia Xu?
2) I didn’t like Sang Zhi’s baby voice. She kept the act up even when she was after 18 years old and it wasn’t very pleasant. I understand that Zhao Lu Si was trying to sound younger but does she have to continue with that voice even when she’s in university?
18 year olds don’t talk like that so why does she? Even this bothered me a little, I’m not too bothered by the cutesy voice because it’s been done in other Chinese dramas before.
3) There was a point where Sang Zhi called Jia Xu ‘ge ge.’
This means older brother in Chinese.
In Chinese culture, it’s normal to call your actual older brother, and to guys that are older than you that is a form of respect but ‘ge ge’ makes her sound much younger. This is probably the case here but it was another thing that made me uncomfortable in the drama.
4) The Pacing
The show’s pacing was slower in the beginning.
1) When Duan Jia Xu realized the person Sang Zhi likes is him, he actively pursues her without any doubt. This was nice to see from an audience member’s perspective but also semi-unrealistic.
He comes from a broken home and hasn’t experienced much warmth in his life. Then, he met Sang Zhi and Sang Yan’s parents, who helped him when no one else would.
On top of that, he’s best friends with Sang Yan.
A recurring theme in the drama was the 5-year age gap and his tragic background (there are flashbacks of the dad’s accident but I thought it would play a bigger role in the drama as well).
Wouldn’t it be normal to explore those extra layers of complication before deciding to be with her?
2) The BIG deal about the age gap
Speaking of the age gap between the two leads, there was a lot of flak from the public because there was talk about how Duan Jia Xu groomed her and that he was predatory. I very much disagree because his feelings for her were completely platonic until she was of legal age.
I think the problem lies in that he watched her growing up. He was the older brother figure and she was the little sister.
In the drama, Duan Jia Xu is only five years older than Sang Zhi while in the novel, they are 7 years apart. A 5-year age difference is nothing but there is a difference between an age gap at 19 years old versus 24 years old.
In real life, the two leads are only two years apart. Chen Zhe Yuan is born in 1996 and Zhao Lu Si is born in 1998.
Hidden Love Drama Review – Main Actors
Chen Zhe Yuan
Chen Zhe Yuan is a rising star and although he hasn’t caught up to Zhao Lu Si’s popularity, I’ve officially became a fan after this drama. I’m sure tens of thousands of fans will feel the same as me.
The last time I felt this strongly about a male actor was Wang He Di as Dong Fang Qing Cang and Cheng Yi as Si Feng. Those characters are both in fantasy dramas though.
Duan Jia Xu feels more real and relatable because Hidden Love is a modern drama.
Chen Zhe Yuan did fantastic in this role. He embodied the character and nailed those micro-expressions. I would never have expected him to be such a good actor.
He does have some cheesy dialogues almost to the point where it’s cringey but he can pull it off with his tone, face, and chemistry with Zhao Lu Si.
He does have a sweet boyfriend, clean guy look to him. That’s why he can pull off playing Duan Jia Xu. He makes a heart-fluttering male lead for first love.
If there was another male actor I can imagine playing this role, it’s Zhang Ling He, who played Chang Heng from Love Between Fairy and Devil. Both of them have a softer look to them and look like nice guys.
The only real complaint I have is that Chen Zhe Yuan is very skinny. He’s skinny to the point where he looks lanky in some scenes because he’s so tall.
Zhao Lu Si
Zhao Li was in her early twenties when she filmed this but makes a convincing teen falling in love.
It’s probably because of her baby face that she can play a sweet and naive character like Sang Zhi.
It is pushing it a little for her to play a young high school student but if there’s a young actress that pulls it off who’s actually in her twenties at the time of filming, it’s her.
Zhao Lusi has come a long way since The Romance of Tiger and Rose. She improved her acting so much, especially in the airport heartbreak scene.
Zhao Lu Si did a terrific job playing a character experiencing a first crush and love.
Both leads shined so brightly in Hidden Love. Usually, it’s either the male or female lead that stands out. This time around, both shined equally.
Final Thoughts – Hidden Love Drama Review
Hidden Love is a Chinese romance drama for those who want to watch something with a cute, romantic feel-good vibe. It’s a short, easy-to-follow show that will make you smile and temporarily forget your worries as you join Sang Zhi and Duan Jia Xu’s universe. This series doesn’t have the most exciting plotline but the chemistry between the leads will make you eat up every part of their love story.
It will even make you wonder where your Duan Jia Xu is.
I didn’t think I would write another Chinese drama review so soon after Beauty of Resilience but Hidden Love also came out in the summertime of 2023.
It’s that time of the year to show all those blockbuster dramas.
Even if there’s no other 2023 drama that beats Hidden Love, I’m perfectly okay. It’s a show I can keep rewatching and it’s on Netflix too!
To any girls reading this drama review, I hope you find a love like Sang Zhi and Duan Jia Xu.
Now to You – Hidden Love Drama Review
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P.S. If you like watching Hidden Love, check out When I Fly Towards You. The novel was written by the same author and it’s also campus drama.