The Rational Life season 1 review – a meaty romantic saga down to earth

June 18, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
Netflix, TV Reviews
3.5

Summary

At 35 episodes, there is plenty of romantic drama to get stuck into here — if you’re in it for the long haul, there’s lots to like.

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3.5

Summary

At 35 episodes, there is plenty of romantic drama to get stuck into here — if you’re in it for the long haul, there’s lots to like.

This review of The Rational Life is spoiler-free. 


Directed by Hsu Fu Chun and written by Chen Tong and Long Xiao Shan, The Rational Life is the latest Netflix C-drama and arrives on the streaming giant with a fair amount of hype. That, I think, is the only thing that can justify the impressive but intimidating 35-episode season order. If this show gets renewed, the cast might die of old age filming part two. Then again, though, perhaps there’s a case to be made for a character drama running this long. There’s plenty of room for development, and any viewers who like the cast get to spend a good old time with them.

The chances of liking the cast are pretty high in The Rational Life. The remarkably lovely Qin Lan tops the bill as Shen Ruo Xin, a careerist thirty-something who rebels against the cultural norms and finds herself in the midst of a love triangle, with her eligible bachelor boss on one point and her trust assistant on the other. It’s a blend of workplace drama and romance that’s grounded enough to be relatable while still hitting the expected genre beats, but it’s Qin Lan who shoulders the bulk of the drama, and her character is written in a compelling way as a counterpoint to outdated attitudes, toxic workplace culture, sexist expectations, and outmoded traditionalism. 

Ruo Xin’s staunchly old-school mother is the primary way that traditionalism manifests, and while she’s representative of an older generation her character is also arguably a bit too combative and interfering in a way that can get annoying. The generational gap is an important component in the story, which is in itself largely about a relationship with quite an age gap, but the writing can border on artificial in such instances, as though it’s cheaply manufacturing obstacles for Ruo Xin to overcome.

There’s no way a drama this long won’t drag a bit, and there’s not too much interest beyond Ruo Xin’s immediate predicament, some strong supporting turns notwithstanding. The Rational Life is clearly being marketed towards a hardcore C-drama crowd in the mood for a long-winded slice-of-life romantic saga, and it provides that, albeit with some caveats.

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