Leon Jay Williams – Wei Lian (William Spencer)
Esther Liu Ping Yan – Su Fei (Sophie)
Ruan Jing Tian – Owen Jing Yuan Fang
Song Zhi Ai – Su San (Susan)/ Luo Shan
David Chen Yu Fan – Brian
Synopsis (CONTAINS SPOILERS):
The story begins when the four main characters are just children. Luo Shan’s father is chauffer to the Su’s who have a daughter, Sophie. Having been abandoned by her mother and occasionally beaten by her father, Luo Shan harbors feelings of inferiority and inadequacy. Luo Shan is envious of Sophie, believing that if given the same opportunities as her, she could be as happy. Then, Luo Shan’s father dies in an accident and the Su’s take her in, renaming her Susan. Sophie’s mother hopes that Sophie will treat Susan as her older sister and not tell anyone that Susan is adopted. Being kind-hearted and easy-going by nature, Sophie is easily taken advantage of by Susan, who decides that everything Sophie has, she must have too. Her jealousy also extends to Sophie’s close friendship with Yuan Fang.
Sophie is unhappy about having to leave her previous school, Green Forest Elementary School, to attend the Spencer Royal School of Music, a school so strict, it punishes its students for forgetting their textbooks. One day, William Spencer, son of the founder of the Spencer school, arrives to sit in on one of the classes. Seeing him without a textbook and unaware of his identity, Sophie lends hers to him, which results in her being punished. William is touched by her sacrifice and horrified at the punishment. He pulls her out of class and they run into Green Forest. On a windmill, he sees Sophie’s engraving of an ‘i’ with a heart. Then they see the legendary ‘green light’. An old lady appears who tells William that when he grows up, he will meet a girl whom he will love deeply. He must trust her or she will lose everything because of him, even possibly her life. William takes this to heart and promises Sophie that he will protect her forever. He gives his family crest to her and tells her his name. But when he asks for her name, Sophie refuses to tell him, only saying that she is his princess.
The next day, as a result of Susan’s spiteful action, Yuan Fang and Sophie miss the opportunity to say goodbye before Yuan Fang leaves for England to study music. On this day too, before going home to Austria, William goes to the school to find Sophie. William runs into Susan who asks him if he is looking for her little sister. When William asks Susan for her little sister’s name, Susan pauses before telling him that it is Susan. Her lie will affect events to come.
The story continues twenty years later. Yuan Fang is now a celebrated violinist known as Owen. He is returning to Taiwan to perform at the Spencer Royal School of Music but most importantly to look for his Sophie whom he has loved all these years. William Spencer is also returning to Taiwan to take over as CEO of the Spencer school upon the death of his father but also like Owen, to look for his princess. Sophie too is returning to Taiwan to teach at the Green Forest Elementary School. Susan is now the art director of the Spencer Royal School of Music.
William and Sophie do not recognize each other initially although Sophie starts to suspect that he might be her prince William. On the other hand, William is happy when he meets Susan as he thinks she is his princess. Susan does nothing to disabuse him of this notion. However, she does ask him to decide if the one he loves is from his memory or the one who stands before him. He assures her that he loves her. Sophie tells herself that this is not her William as her William would not be with Susan. In addition, due to a number of misunderstandings, William forms a bad impression of Sophie. It is only when William realizes his mistake that he and Sophie slowly become friends. Sophie starts to develop feelings for him and I believe that unbeknownst to him, William also starts to develop feelings for Sophie.
From their first meeting, Owen recognizes Sophie as the Sophie of his childhood. However, Sophie does not realize he is Yuan Fang and Owen decides not to tell her. He wants to see how long it would take for her to recognize him. He does his best to pursue her but he quickly realizes that Sophie has not forgotten her Prince William. Owen catches sight of William’s family crest and realizes that he is Sophie’s William. He is angry and disappointed at William for not recognizing Sophie. He warns William to stay away from her. A confused William assures Owen he has no interest in Sophie. Owen can’t bring himself to tell Sophie and William the truth, yet he doesn’t want William to be fooled by Susan. Despite Owens many warnings about Susan, William remembers the old woman’s words and chooses to believe in her.
At the same time, Green Forest Elementary School, which is within the Spencer Educational Foundation, is in danger of being closed by the Spencer Board of Directors. William does his best to prevent this, as he believes in the teaching method and motivation of Green Forest Elementary School. He also wants to protect the place where he has one of his most treasured memories. He ends up making a wager with Brian, one of the directors most ardent on the closure of the school. Brian will not close Green Forest Elementary School and will resign, should the school win the upcoming singing competition. If Spencer Royal School of Music wins, then William will resign and Green Forest Elementary School will close. Sophie vows to win the competition to save her beloved school. Owen decides to help.
Brian approaches Susan, who is one of the judges in the competition, to ensure that Spencer Royal School of Music wins. Susan uses this opportunity to force Owen to work at the Spencer school; if he refuses, she will make sure Green Forest Elementary School loses the competition. William’s mother overhears the plan and tells William about it, to his disbelief. Susan wants to keep Owen close to her because she doesn’t want Sophie to have him. However, Owen threatens to tell Sophie and William the truth about each other. Susan manipulates Sophie into believing that Owen will lie to her about William because he, Owen, is in love with Sophie. As a result, when Owen tries to tell Sophie about William, she tells him that the past isn’t important anymore. She further hurts him by telling him that she can never love him.
Owen decides to tell William and Sophie the truth about each other anyways. However, given that William is now dating Susan, Sophie refuses to acknowledge that he is the Prince William she has waited for and loved all these years. William confronts Susan who without any remorse tells him that she never said that she is the girl he was looking for. She further reminds William that he had said he loves her, Susan, and not the one from his memory. Later, William makes it clear to her that it is over between them although Susan refuses to let him go.
William later confirms that Sophie is the girl of his childhood based on the special way she writes her ‘i’. He goes to tell her but overhears her say to Owen that the past and promises made in the past are not important, that it is the present that matters. William misunderstands her closeness with Owen and decides that the best thing he can do for her is to let her go. Owen also finally tells Sophie he is Yuan Fang and they have a happy reunion.
Green Forest Elementary School wins the singing competition. Brian is angry with Susan for betraying him while William is thankful to her. Susan tells William and his mother that she had to make Brian think she was on his side so that he doesn’t get someone else to sway the competition his way. William’s mother starts to like Susan.
Susan tries to convince Sophie that William isn’t her Prince William. Susan also tries to get Sophie’s blessing for her and William. However, Sophie tells Susan that she knows of her lies, one of which caused Sophie to hurt Owen. Sophie wants to know if Susan really believes that she, Sophie, wouldn’t know her William when he appears before her. To Susan’s surprise, Sophie confesses that she has long known that William is her Prince William. However, for Susan’s sake, she did not tell him. Sophie admits that she hates it and she is angry but still, she doesn’t want to hurt Susan. After all that Susan has done to her, Sophie still thinks of her as a sister, while Susan is unrepentant. To Sophie’s question “is your love for William strong enough to last forever?”, Susan’s answer is “anything you can do, I can too”.
A photo of William and Sophie is published in the papers the next day (thanks to Brian and Susan’s ex-boyfriend) with the suggestion that they are in a relationship. And to help Sophie’s school win, William has been courting Susan to influence her decision as a judge. This causes a scandal and when confronted by the press, Susan puts the blame on her ex-boyfriend, except that she lies that he is Sophie’s ex-boyfriend. Owen threatens to hurt SUSAN is she harms Sophie again.
William’s mother suggests to Susan that she and William get engaged to stop the rumours. Susan is more than willing but William is adamantly against the idea. Earlier in the day, Sophie had fallen into a river and almost drowned. This made William realize that he doesn’t want to lose her. William angrily tells Susan that he will not get engaged with her. He also accuses her of having lied to him on the very first day they met, when she had told him that her little sister’s name is Susan.
The next day during the press conference, William is on the verge of announcing that Sophie is his intended fiancée when Susan’s ex-boyfriend shows up to make trouble. He is about to tell everyone that his ex-girlfriend is Susan when Sophie stops him and lies that it is she. She pleads with him to let Susan be happy. And as a result, William’s mother quickly announces that William and Susan are getting engaged.
William wants Sophie to tell him the truth about her supposed ex-boyfriend. He also wants to give her another Spencer family crest as a way of telling her he is her Prince William. However, they both get into an argument and leave in a huff. Later, Susan grudgingly agrees to attend a press conference with him to cancel their so-called engagement.
Owen asks Sophie to be his girlfriend. He tells her to let him know the next day after his concert for his sponsor, CBC. At the concert, still upset about their argument the day before, both William and Sophie childishly try to make each other jealous. In the middle of playing, Owen suddenly stops and asks Sophie if she will be willing to be his girlfriend. Before she answers, he drags her away from the concert, much to the anger of the director of CBC, who pulls his support of Owen. Sophie tells Owen honestly that her heart belongs to William.
At the Green Forest Elementary School barbeque later, both William and Owen try to outdo each other. Sophie feels uncomfortable with all the attention and heads into the office. There she finds her colleague composing a love letter. She surprises her colleague who quickly leaves the room. Sophie picks up her colleague’s notes and starts reading them. William enters the room at that time and mistakes what he hears as her confession to him. The last part of the note says, “if you like me too, turn off the light and kiss me”. Which is what William does, much to Sophie’s surprise. This eventually leads to both of them revealing their true feelings for each other. Owen overhears them and although sad for his loss, is happy for Sophie. Sophie apologizes to Owen who assures her that he will always be there for her.
Sophie and William are about to return to the school when they are intercepted by Susan’s ex-boyfriend and gang. Sophie and William run into the forest where Sophie cuts her finger on a thorn. They eventually find an abandoned hut to hide in. The next morning, both are embarrassed to find that they had fallen asleep next to each other. William urges Sophie to face her true feelings. Sophie doesn’t want to be selfish and hurt Susan but William tells her that love is selfish. Sophie remembers her mother’s advice that love is the one thing that Sophie must not and should not give up for
someone else’s sake.
However, their love faces more obstacles, notably from the plotting of Brian, who is determined to bring William and Susan together. This is Brian’s way of loving Susan – by giving her what she wants. With Owen’s help, Sophie and William are able to overcome Brian’s plan to discredit Sophie. Just as it looks like the path is clear for Sophie and William, Sophie is diagnosed with Pseudomonas, a disease that although seems harmless initially, can result in death. Owen’s mother had died from Pseudomonas and he fears the worst. William scrambles to find a cure for Sophie although he is optimistic. During one of Owen and William’s arguments over Sophie’s condition, Susan overhears them. She is shocked to find out the extent of Sophie’s illness. Susan suddenly realizes that in the last twenty years, in spite of having thought of Sophie as an outsider, she had actually come to love Sophie as a sister. Susan shows her concern for Sophie for the first time, much to Sophie’s surprise. Susan tells Sophie not to forget that she is her elder sister. I like this scene because it marks the turning point in the sisters’ relationship.
Brian attempts to close Green Forest Elementary School again when the school loses the support of CBC, but his plan is foiled yet again. He begins to see the good in the school and eventually comes to support them. Susan also accepts his love for her. It is also with his encouragement that Susan is able to forgive her biological mother.
After hilariously blundering his first proposal to Sophie, William enlists the help of Owen and everyone at Green Forest Elementary School. By this time, Sophie is aware of her medical condition and although worried she may not have much time left, she accepts William’s proposal. She also decides to give William 60 years of Christmas presents, fearing that she may not have the opportunity to do so in the future.
Sophie tells Susan that in the beginning she didn’t want Susan to join their family, but she has come to realize that she is happy Susan did and grateful that she is willing to be her big sister. Susan is touched but not wanting Sophie to see, she feigns anger and quickly goes outside for a good cry. In my opinion, this is one of the most heartrending scenes in the drama. In fact, all scenes between the sisters towards the end of the series are very touching.
William and Owen try to force Sophie to go to the hospital because the doctor has decided to quarantine her to prevent any infections. However, Sophie refuses, asking for time to spent Christmas with the children at Green Forest Elementary School. She is not hopeful that she will live long enough to have another Christmas with the children. William and Owen finally agree to take her to Green Forest where she sadly tells the children that she is unwell and will have to be in hospital. Then as she climbs the ladder to put the star on the top of the Christmas tree, she passes out. Will the old woman’s prophecy come true? Will Sophie lose her life?
I found ‘Green Forest, My Home’ charming and immensely entertaining, with the right balance of drama and humor. And except for a few scenes, which could have been trimmed for length, it was at just the right pace. It also surprised me at times, such as when Sophie accepts William’s proposal. This goes against the popularly used theme of self-sacrifice in such an instance, where the heroine is supposed to decline and then hide away to die alone. And I applaud the writers for not separating William and Sophie when they finally get together. They had plenty of opportunities to do so especially with Brian plotting against William and Sophie. But they didn’t and I had the pleasure of watching plenty of scenes of William and Sophie together.
I was impressed with all the actors, especially Ruan Jing Tian. He is such a natural actor and was especially good in conveying Owen’s emotions during his sad moments. He was able to simultaneously convey his happiness for Sophie and his sadness for losing her to William. He was sufficiently torn between doing what is right for Sophie and doing what Sophie wants, when he and William forcefully take Sophie to the hospital. I also enjoy his many confrontations with William – just the right amount of anger, righteous indignation and rivalry. Owen is someone who, although in the beginning, was selfish in his love for Sophie, later becomes extremely selfless in helping her find her happiness. Jing Tian portrayed to perfection the Owen who is a stylish virtuoso (check out the cool shades he wears as he performs) who loves Sophie enough to make the sacrifices he does for her.
Leon Jay Williams has improved tremendously since ‘Heaven’s Wedding Dress’. He is so much more expressive although there is still room for improvement. He isn’t sufficiently sad when he has to be; there is a lack of tears where it would have been appropriate. However, he and Esther have good chemistry and their scenes together are very hilarious and sweet. They really do behave like a couple in love.
Esther did a very good job considering she is only 17 years-old, although I never once felt she was too young to play the part of 24- year-old Sophie. Still, I wonder why the producers decided to cast someone so young opposite Leon who is at least a decade older than her. Sophie seems too good to be true. She was willing to sacrifice her own happiness for Susan. However, we see Sophie’s motivation when she tells Susan that she doesn’t want to hurt her. Moreover, Sophie’s mother had advised her since young to give in to Susan, probably so that Susan won’t feel unwanted and unloved by her new family.
Song Zhi Ai was well-cast as Susan – so beautiful and sweet, in demeanor and voice but so selfish and wicked at times. Although her expressions didn’t change much in the beginning, she redeemed herself with her ability to cry. I had a lump in my throat watching her cry over Sophie.
Some of the most memorable scenes for me, be it because it was touching or just laugh-out-loud funny, are as follows:
– When William mistook Sophie for a thief and Owen says he believes in Sophie because although he wasn’t there to witness what had happened, he can see the truth with his heart. Owen’s unconditional trust and belief in Sophie is inspiring.
– When Brian’s attempt to show doctored intimate pictures of Sophie, with Susan’s ex-boyfriend, is foiled by Allen and William replacing them with, pictures of Sophie and William. Brian looked so angry when William gets the better of him here.
– When William first tries to propose but ends up telling Sophie to lose 5 pounds before he will marry her. This is a really funny scene and Leon is at his best here.
– When William finally proposes by singing the song “Forever” to her. Such a romantic moment.
– The relationship between Sophie and Susan and how it evolves into mutual affection. Their story moved me so much.
I have thought about how Sophie’s illness ties in with what the old woman in the forest had told William. The only explanation I have is that because William doubted Sophie in the beginning and believed in Susan instead, it led to a series of events that resulted in Sophie cutting her finger, hence contracting Pseudomonas.
I would have given this drama a perfect score, for its storyline, its actors, its awesome soundtrack and quality production values, except for the two complaints I have. The first is that the writers/director overdid the ‘cuteness’ of the children. It became tiresome to watch them so much so I skipped the parts to do with why they didn’t want to participate in the singing competition. My second has to do with two of the characters – Brian and Susan’s ex-boyfriend. They both loved Susan and yet were so willing to help her to be with another man. No one could be that selfless. Although Owen did the same in helping Sophie be with William but Owen’s motivation is to let Sophie be happy since she can’t be happy with him. As such, I give ‘Green Forest, My Home’ a rating of 4.5.