The story of three women who have reached their 30s and the pressure they now face.
《三十而已》是一部关于三位 30 岁女性如何应对生存压力的故事。
Being 30 years old is the focal point of Xiaobo Zhang’s formidable series “Nothing but Thirty”. Whether it’s setting goals to reach by that age, or contemplating what the next decade will bring, existential rumination abounds in the poignant contemporary drama. As subtly philosophical as it is wildly entertaining and sometimes scandalous, anchored by three charismatic female leads, “Nothing but Thirty” introduces several major Chinese talents to US audiences – and hopefully paves the path for more to come.
Wang Man Ni (Jiang Shuying), aka Ni Ni, has lived in Shanghai for eight years. Every day, she has the same breakfast from the same stand and takes the same subway to her job at a high-end boutique. Man Ni is confident and determined, a stellar worker with an impressive list of preferred clients, utterly committed to becoming the store manager. Her daily trials and tribulations are put in perspective when she meets Liang Zhengxian (Edward Ma) on a cruise. A smooth, wealthy womanizer, he sweeps her off her feet. Yet their opinions on marriage fundamentally differ, not to mention the fact that he has a long-time girlfriend.
In the meantime, Gu Jia (Tong Yao) moves into a new, chic apartment with her son and husband Xu Huanshan (Li Zefeng), with whom she founded a successful fireworks company. “Mom is an intellectual,” Xu tells their child. Yet, despite securing Xu’s position as the company’s CEO, she is now delegated to being a housewife,. Gradually, Gu Jia faces potential financial ruin, suspects infidelity, and faces off against rich housewives who bully her son.And then there’s Zhong Xiao Qin (Mao Xiao Tong), who lives with her cat and domineering husband Chen Yu (Yang Le), who seems to love his fish more than her. They lead a self-described “average life”; she works on the bottom floor of a company, performing middling tasks; he works at a TV station. And yet, Xiao Qin maintains her cheerful disposition despite complications, like a pregnancy that Chen Yu clearly doesn’t want. “You can’t even take care of yourself, how do you expect to be a mother?” he demands. This leads to a devastating development, not to mention his beloved fish dying. Xiao Qin’s idea of a perfect marriage is gradually destroyed – but then an opportunity to pursue her true passion arrives.
The three women’s lives cross in various ways. Throughout the season’ s 43 episodes, scandalous truths emerge, resentments flare, and characters make life-altering decisions. “Nothing but Thirty” is light and breezy, but also contains moments of surprising depth and insight – and, of course, all the requisite drama.
这三个女人的生活在很多方面都有交集。在 43 集的故事中，丑闻真相不断
Speaking of length, 43 episodes of a foreign, subtitled show may prove daunting to jaded American viewers. I personally found it refreshing, a deep dive into these characters’ intricate lives and culture, the way they evolve and ultimately discover themselves. But Xiaobo Zhang’s creation covers so much more than that: social, work, and particularly family dynamics in contemporary China; the booming real estate market; the true value of an expensive purse; female empowerment (those women are
BOSSES in every sense of the word); the many forms of discrimination; competition in an all-female workplace; the difference in social classes and how they manifest themselves; the male ego clashing with female wisdom and elegance.
We tend to hurt the ones we love the most. People rarely are who they at first seem to be: arrogant ones turn out to be lifelong friends, while pleasant folks stab you in the back. In “Nothing but Thirty”, you’dbe wise not to judge a bo ok by its cover: poor-looking people end up making massive purchases; wealthy folks exhibit cheap behavior. Sure, things are viewed mostly through the prism of three upper-middle-class women, but the series contains a wide range of keensocio-political insights. The emotions it touches upon are truly universal.
Countless scenes exemplify this. Gu Jia grows suspicious of her husband because of a tangerine. Later, she fights off a man’s sexual advances, before unleashing fury on several arrogant moms. Man Ni judges a customer by her appearance, to rapidly get an expected dose of reality – but then another layer of heartrending subtlety is added. Xu gets arrested for fighting with young students. A guitar solo is performed in an aquarium. A character ends up in jail. Zhong Xiaoqin’s 30thbirthday monologues alone would be worth the price of admission, as would Man Ni’s visit to a decrepit
old town, which accentuates the aforementioned class differences. The list goes on and on.
The three leads are poised, sophisticated, and progressive: strong Chinese women standing up against oppressive men and values, while also getting involved in compelling drama. Tong Yao is a force of nature, portraying razor-sharp wit and confidence. Mao Xiaotong possesses impeccable comic timing. As the youngest one of the trio, she manages to exude real pathos that matches her elders. But it’s arguably Jiang Shuying who forms the heart of the series, each gesture and flicker of expression conveying volumes.
Yingji Zhang’s lyrical, cerebral, and sometimes purposefully silly script brims with standout moments of dialogue. “People aren’t as lazy as cats because there’s no one to take care of us,” a character muses. “The spending here depends on earning money, not saving it,” comes another philosophical observation. “I want to buy an asteroid. Do you know where I can buy one?” a wealthy woman inquires. WeChat, the Chinese versionof WhatsApp, is hilariously mentioned a thousand times.
一颗小行星，你知道在哪能买到吗？”一位有钱的女士问道。值得注意的是，在各种回答中，微信，中国版的 WhatsApp 有多次露出。
“Nothing but Thirty” portrays life in Shanghai in minute detail. It’ s fast-paced despite lacking bombastic action, driven purely by skillful character development, confident filmmaking, and surprising revelations. More importantly, it demonstrates that the Chinese are producing progressive content that shames some of the inexplicably popular dreck on Western streaming platforms.
This wonderful series deserves to be seen by the widest possible audience.