YOLO: You Only Live Once

International Festival Premiere | In Competition | Opening Film


The astounding success of Hi, Mom in 2021 catapulted the stand-up comedian Jia Ling into the pantheon of one of the most successful directors worldwide. A feat she has repeated this year with her second film, YOLO: You Only Live Once, which only a few days into its big screen release during Chinese New Year, had already earned over three billion yuan. The film is a pretty faithful remake of the Japanese feature 100 Yen Love (FEFF 2015), but with one major difference: Jia Ling, director and main star of the film, underwent an extraordinary physical transformation that became the topic of heated debate, both on social media and in the traditional press. The plot revolves around Le Ying, a mild-mannered 30-year-old woman who epitomises the stereotype of a depressed woman: overweight, unemployed, living with her parents and an older sister who constantly criticises her, sleeping most of the time and, when she is not sleeping, shuffling around the house thinking about her next meal. Oddly enough, she still has a boyfriend, although he ends up dumping her to marry her best friend .

After another major row with her sister, Le Ying decides to leave home. She starts working in a restaurant, where she meets a down-and-out boxing coach (played by Lei Jiaying, one of the most popular actors in China at the moment) and ends up falling in love with him. But just when it seems that life is going smoothly, new setbacks and disappointments bring Lei Ying to the brink of the collapse; as a form of escapism, she starts training at the boxing gym.. .

YOLO, whose English title is an acronym for You Only Live Once – while the Chinese title literally translates as “Hot, Spicing, Boiling and Burning” – contrary to appearances is not a film about the cathartic power of sport and social redemption, but the tale of a woman taking the back control of her own life .

During filming, Jia Ling first put on 20 kg and then lost 50 kg over the course of the year-long shoot. The actress followed a strict diet and training schedule to acquire the physique of a professional boxer. Before turning to directing, Jia Ling was already massively popular in China as a cross-talk performer and stand-up comedian who would often joke about her stress-related overeating. Her transformation in the film is truly extraordinary because no prosthetics were used, and it triggered not only intense media debate but also the proliferation of support groups and a sudden increase in gym memberships. Social media particularly appreciated the fact that Jia Ling’s physical transformation did not adhere to the patriarchal aesthetic of baiyoushou (“white skin, childlike appearance and slight build”) but favoured the development of musculature and strength. Although one of the crucial scenes in the film is a very realistic fight (in which Jia Ling’s opponent is the real-life boxing champion Zhang Guiling), the actress repeatedly emphasised that “the film is neither about weight loss nor boxing, it is the story of a mild-mannered person who finds herself and learns to love herself.” With her second film, Jia Ling reconfirms her place at the apex of Chinese cinema; it is no coincidence that YOLO is the first film from mainland China which Sony has bought the international rights to, despite not having been involved in its production. She is also working alongside Sony on the English-language remake of Hi, Mom .

Film director: JIA Ling
Year: 2024
Running time: 129'
Country: China
24/04 - 7:30 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
24-04-2024 19:30 24-04-2024 21:39Europe/Rome YOLO: You Only Live Once Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine cec@cecudine.org