Back to 1989 (1989一念間) has the typical Taiwanese romance drama feel to it, but it’s got the extra element of time travel. Time travel stories are a favourite of ours. It’s the main character not being from the time the people they come to associate with that makes it exciting and fun. It’s even more exciting when this fact of not being from the time everyone else is from is kept hidden. It means there’s the anticipation of when and how the secret will be let out. It’s also curiosity to know what the reactions will be when those characters closest to them who aren’t aware come to find out that the person they have come to know isn’t actually from their time.
The Back to 1989 Story Setup
The story of Back to 1989 surrounds a talented stock broker, Chen Che (Marcus Chang), who has a strained relationship with his mother. The strained relationship comes from Chen Che’s curiosity to find out who his father is and his mother not wanting to have anything to do with Chen Che’s father.
Chen Che gets into a heated argument with his mother over this topic following a visit to the hospital to see his grandfather with dementia who had a fall. He hears his grandfather uttering sentences revealing bits of what happened in his mother’s past, picking up a mention of some person named, Li Jin Qin (Yorke Sun). He asks his mother about this person outside his grandfather’s hospital room. But Chen Che’s mother avoids answering the question. After Chen Che expresses being adament towards finding out who his father is and Chen Che’s mother threatening to not recognise Chen Che as her son, on a thunderous night, Chen Che takes a ride on his motorcycle out on the streets. He loses control of his motorcycle in a tunnel road he goes through when a bright light blinds him. He rolls into an invisible wall and enters the past.
Chen Che gets thrown back to the year 1989. The first person Chen Che encounters is a 20-something young female with a spunky personality—Ye Zhen Zhen (Ivy Shao). It’s Chen Che’s mother’s best friend and co-worker at a stock broker company that Chen Che later goes to work at.
At this point when Chen Che first enters into the past and meets Ye Zhen Zhen, Chen Che isn’t aware he’s travelled into the past. He only finds a few things to be odd: he notices his motorcycle is nowhere to be seen; he finds Ye Zhen Zhen’s scooter outdated even when Ye Zhen Zhen tells him it’s bought recently; Ye Zhen Zhen doesn’t know what a cellphone is when he asks for hers to use; and Ye Zhen Zhen doesn’t know of any train station in the area when he asks to head to one. Chen Che only comes to realise he has travelled back in time when he goes to a motorcycle repair shop that he and Ye Zhen Zhen heads to after a passing car damages Ye Zhen Zhen’s scooter. He comes to realise something isn’t quite right when Ye Zhen Zhen is amazed at the sight of the credit card he holds out to the shop owner. Asking the shop owner to use his phone and calling the police on a rotary dial telephone, Chen Che finally realises it’s the year 1989.
Chen Che attempts to return back to his time through heading back through the tunnel he entered from and through simply using willpower. After these two failed attempts, Chen Che seems to realise it will take time before he can return back to his time. The next morning, he looks for a job to support himself whilst in the past.
Chen Che tries for a financial analyst position at Tai Yuan Securities—a stock broker company Ye Zhen Zhen works at—but, he isn’t successful when the manager interviewing Chen Che finds Chen Che overselling his talent. When Chen Che is asked to show the skills he speaks he has with selecting a valuable stock, Chen Che selects a stock the manager sees as a poorly performing one. This puts a strike on his credibility. The next one wrote Chen Che off as unsuitable for the position when Chen Che avoids answering the year of study at the university he stated as having studied at.
Chen Che eventually gets hired by the manager and comes to work at Tai Yuan Securities. Needing to save Ye Zhen Zhen from entertaining a very important Tai Yuan Securities client from his interest in her, Chen Che wins a bet of predicting the closing points of the stock and becomes an employee of Tai Yuan Securities.
These events—going to Tai Yuan Securities for an interview, helping Ye Zhen Zhen out of a situation with the company client and then finally landing the job—brings Chen Che closer and closer to coming face-to-face with his mother, Chen Ya Juan (Mini Tsai). Meeting Ye Zhen Zhen and working in the company that both Ye Zhen Zhen and his mother works at, Chen Che slowly becomes part of his mother’s close circle of friends. This brings Chen Che to begin learning about his mother in her youth. He experiences how it feels to have a loving family when he resides with Ye Zhen Zhen’s family and he comes to be reluctant to leave the past when he falls in love with Ye Zhen Zhen. Regarding Chen Che’s longtime desire of knowing who his father is, it isn’t what he imagined when the identity of his father shocks him.
Back to 1989 is a very great time travel story. It’s the first time travel drama we’ve come across that happens not across hundreds of years, but just a couple decades. The main character doesn’t travel hundreds of years back in time; so, we don’t see one of the characters choose to never travel back to their original time, stay at the current time and sacrifice their old life to be with the one they love (we’re referring to the Korean drama Faith); or, do we see them return back to their time and it’s a love that’s impossible and they can only have one final communication with each other through a note (we’re referring to the Korean drama, Rooftop Prince). Back to 1989, though, the characters can definitely still encounter each other even if both continued to live in their original time. It’s just that one would have to wait and would have aged.
This is what made this time travel drama so interesting. When we were watching, we knew Chen Che and Ye Zhen Zhen will definitely meet. We just didn’t know if they will be together when Ye Zhen Zhen may need to move on and be with someone else and have a family.
We do love the pairing, Ye Zhen Zhen and Chen Che. Ye Zhen Zhen and Chen Che isn’t very different from the typical pairing types we’ve seen in other Taiwanese dramas. Chen Che is good-looking, popular with the females and is above the pack. Meanwhile, Ye Zhen Zhen is a tomboy who is fun-loving and causes trouble for Chen Che when he needs to save her out of situations. But, with time as a huge obstacle for the pair, we found Ye Zhen Zhen and Chen Che interesting, cute and sweet together.
The development for the plot surrounding the topic of who Chen Che’s father is and why Chen Che’s mother has a huge negative reaction every time Chen Che wanted to know who his father is, it wasn’t very interesting at the beginning when it slowly developed Chen Che’s mother’s developing relationship with Li Jin Qin. But, it picked up in the middle when it started cluing us in on what got Chen Ya Juan to be so different from her past self. It continued to be as interesting as the plot surrounding Ye Zhen Zhen and Chen Che right to the end.
Back to 1989 was a very, very good watch. It’s got a good set of main characters and supporting characters. We love Ye Zhen Zhen’s entire family and the stock broker company colleagues. They were nice additions. These characters help give light and funny moments that gave breather to the serious moments which focused on situations with some serious topics.
It’s the first time we’ve come across a drama with the stock broker company as a setting and we enjoyed it a lot. We liked how Chen Che is so impressive with his super skill of guess the closing points to a stock. We love how he shocks people with his incredible accuracy! It’s of course because he’s from the future and has knowledge of what happened in the past, but still, it’s fun!
The drama progressed well, flowed incredibly well and always provided believable explanations to the situations that came about. There was the element of mystery that constantly had us wondering what’s happening and what’s going to happen, keeping us interested throughout. And we love how the series ended. It was a happy ending and it was very well done and satisfying!