Drama ReviewFamilyIslands Chinese Drama Review

"Islands Chinese drama is an excellent family drama that closely reflects reality."

Islands Chinese Drama Review

  • Chinese Drama Title: Islands
  • Also Known As: 烟火人家, Her Islands, Ta He Ta De Qun Dao , Yan Huo Ren Jia
  • Director: Lin Yan
  • Casts: Ma Si Chun, Xu Fan
  • Genres: Drama, Romance, Family
  • Number of Episodes: 40
  • Date of Release: February 13, 2024
  • Original Network: CCTV, Tencent Video
  • Where to Watch: Tencent Video, WeTV, Viki
  • Adapted from the novel: Ta He Ta De Qun Dao by Yi Nan

Hello readers, I hope you are doing well. For the last couple of months, me and my husband was working out a new hobby, gardening. We have some sansivieras, monstera obliqua, ans succulents. Today I just find that one of my Succulent plants (FYI, I only had 2) was not in good condition.

Despite my efforts to help it, it turned out that the root was already rotting. I had to pull some of it off. Unfortunately, due to my lack of experience, some of the spines pierced my hand. They were small but sharp, and it took me a while to find them. So, this is me crying over my swollen fingers. Maybe I should stick to safer options like Pothos or Sansiviera…

But enough with the chit-chat, dear readers. Let’s start with the real thing. This is a Chinese drama review of Ma Si Chun’s latest drama, Islands. It is one of the new Chinese drama released in February 2024. Enjoy!

Islands Chinese Drama Synopsis

The Meng family has a tradition of returning home every Chinese New Year, a rule established by the family matriarch, Qiao Hai Yun. For years, Qiao Hai Yun’s daughters, Meng Ming Wei, Meng Wan Qing, and Meng Yi’an, along with their husbands and children, would gather at her house.

However, this tradition was broken when Li Yi Jin, Meng Ming Wei’s daughter, went to her boyfriend’s hometown. Lin Yi Jin’s absence was like a ticking time bomb that destroyed the already tense relationship between mother and daughter.

For years, Li Yi Jin has felt pressured by her mother, Meng Ming Wei always felt that her daughter lacked many things and that she would be doomed without her help. Although they seemed to hate each other, deep down inside, they longed for a warm mother-and-daughter relationship. Particularly when Li Yi Jin and Meng Ming Wei saw how good Meng Wang Qing and Tao Shu Na’s mother-daughter relationship was.

Islands Chinese Drama Review - poster

However, nobody’s life is perfect. Meng Wang Qing’s husband is lazy and only cares about enjoying life. All this time, Meng Wang Qing worked hard to provide for her family while swallowing her husband’s accusation of infidelity. However, she always kept it to herself and put up a strong front to the outside world.

Meng Wang Qing was not the only one who kept a secret. Qiao Hai Yun’s youngest daughter appears to have the best life. Meng Yi An has a successful career, a caring husband, and a cute daughter. However, unbeknownst to everyone, her marriage ended a year ago, and now she must juggle between work and her daughter.

Each member of the Meng family must embark on a journey of self-discovery, ultimately finding a deeper meaning in their familial relationships.

Islands Chinese Drama Review

Family dramas started to get a special place in my heart. Nowadays, many streaming platforms offer a variety of family dramas, each telling a unique story that is hard to miss. I was particularly drawn to this one and added it to my must-watch list as soon as I read the storyline. Another reason why I chose this drama is because of Ma Si Chun, whom I am a big fan of.

Ma Si Chun is a versatile actress. She is always able to immerse herself in her characters. I have not watched her entire filmography, but I recall that she always portrays strong women. When I first saw her in ‘Oh My General’, I was fascinated by how heroic she was as Ye Zhao.

Later, I saw her again as the strong and independent Mi Ka in ‘You Are My Hero’. Finally, Ma Si Chun portrayed Li Xiao Nan in The Crack of Dawn. A strong woman who realized that she was the only one who could save herself.

This time, she starred as Li Yi Jin, a woman who was oppressed by her mother, but managed to get back on her feet and reach for her own happiness. Although she may not be as popular as younger actresses, you should not miss Ma Si Chun’s drama or movie.

The drama is excellent, but the subtitles are disappointing. I am watching a drama on WeTV, but it feels like I am reading a machine translation. This is very frustrating. The wrong pronouns are being used because, in Chinese, there is no differentiation between ‘she’ and ‘he’. Additionally, the characters in this drama communicate with each other using text messages, but unfortunately, there are no subtitles for the messages. I’m crying….

Islands Chinese Drama Review - poster 2

This drama closely reflects reality. Most of the problems occurred within the family. These include quarrels between parents and children, disapproved relationships, unrequited love, and failed marriages. We have all seen them in real life, whether it’s in your family, your uncle’s household, your neighbors, your school/work colleagues, or maybe it’s happening to you right now.

Life is full of dynamics, like a spinning wheel. You may feel under pressure at times, but remember that it won’t last forever. Don’t give up in difficult situations, as you never know what the future may hold.

The Story

The story of Islands centers around the Meng family, with a particular focus on the troubled relationship between Li Yi Jin and Meng Ming Wei. Similar to the 2024 drama Born to Run (which you can read the review here, Born to Run drama review), Islands also explores the theme of a toxic family.

At the beginning of the drama, I became emotional when Meng Ming Wei refused to believe that Li Yi Jin was not pregnant and slapped her hard. Their relationship and communication were poor, and I feel sorry for Li Yi Jin.

Islands Chinese Drama Review - poster 3

If you watch this drama, please be patient. The story pace was quite slow. Yet, it gave me a very clear understanding of the characters. As the story progressed, I could understand the reasons behind their actions.

Meng Ming Wei could be considered both a bad and a good mother. She cared about her daughter’s happiness, but her approach was wrong. Meng Ming Wei belittled Li Yi Jin, thinking she was not attractive enough to find a good husband and her job was not prestigious enough. She intervened in her daughter’s life because she felt Li Yi Jin was lacking in many areas.

When I said intervene, I meant a major intervention. Meng Ming Wei would trick her own daughter into attending a blind date. She called Zhuo Dou to tell him to stay away from Li Yi Jin. And she even called Li Yi Jin’s boss and told him that she was resigning.

Meng Ming Wei admitted that she used to scold and beat Li Yi Jin for her own good. She hoped that Li Yi Jing could live a good life and understand her pain. I was like, “Are you crazy?” A mother should be a strong support for her daughter. If a mother acts like a villain, the pain is twofold.

But I admired Li Yi Jin’s heart that seemed as vast as the ocean. She hates her mother so much. Every time she answers her call, Li Yi Jin always fetch a deep sigh as if she would face something dreading. But when her mother was in problem, she would stand in front of her and protect her, even if it means contradicting her father.

With a constant interaction, even if its hurting, Li Yi Jin must have a deeper connection with Meng Ming Mei compared to Li Cheng Ru, who was present but never care about her.

Sometimes I regret my hobby of watching Chinese dramas. The craziness in Cdramaland is on another level. Watching this kind of drama gives me a headache, but I keep watching it anyway. I even praise the actors because their acting is so real. God, am I possessed or just a masochist?

The second family consists of Meng Wan Qing, Tao Dalei, and Tao Shu Na (Nana). Although Meng Wan Qing and Tao Dalei always acted like a happy couple in front of their daughter, their marriage had been crumbling for years. They almost divorced when Nana was in high school, but they canceled it because they feared it would affect Nana’s college entrance exam.

Meng Wan Qing and Tao Dalei have been sleeping in different rooms. Meng Wan Qing did not want Nana to be unhappy in her life, so she held back her emotions and disappointment. Tao Dalei, on the other hand, spent all his wife’s hard-earned money and was an irresponsible husband who only knew how to enjoy life to its fullest. He took Meng Wan Qing’s hard work for granted and only focused on his life and his jealousy toward Zheng Bin.

I really want to smack Tao Dalei’s head with his dancing shoes. Tao Dalei is a shameless man who does not deserve Meng Wan Qing. I prefer Zheng Bin, who always stays by her side and takes good care of her. Meng Wan Qing had good eyes for clothes and things.

Even Tao Dalei used to be handsome when they were young (it was Qiao Hai Yun who said that). So, why she failed to recognized such gem was standing near her? Some people did have a blind spot.

Meanwhile, Meng Yi An’s family is already broken. She and Qiu Xia have been divorced for a year but still put on a happy family facade because they fear the news would upset Qiao Hai Yun, who thinks highly of them.

Qiu Xia and Meng Ming Wei got divorced because Qiu Xia felt that Meng Ming Wei was not good enough to be Qiu Qiu’s mother due to her busy job. Being a modern family, they made the divorce open for their daughter Qiu Qiu. The co-parenting also worked very well for them.

Meng Yi An started a relationship with a lawyer named Song Jun Fang, while Qiu Xia began a relationship with Qiu Qiu’s ballet teacher, Sun Xiao Ru.

Upon meeting Sun Xiao Ru, I had a feeling that this person was not trustworthy. However, I also believe that there is no romantic connection between Meng Yi An and Song Jun Fang, as their interactions seem too casual and lacking in chemistry.

The story also touches on the relationships between Li Yi Jin and Zhou Dou, as well as Nana and Zhang Xiao Yan. Zhou Dou has a complicated and tragic past, and he is afraid to reveal his family’s secrets to Li Yi Jin for fear of losing her.

Both Li Yi Jin and Zhou Dou have been shaped by their hardships. They grew up in a harsh environment and had to deal with troubled people around them. When they were close, they felt like they understood each other.

I think Li Yi Jin and Zhou Dou really need to break up. Both of them carried emotional baggage from their parents and needed to make peace with their lives before starting a new one. Li Yi Jin must learn that a relationship is not a shortcut to get away from her mother’s clutch.

Zhou Dou needs to learn to open up to Li Yi Jin and share the truth with her. If he continues to keep things from her, he will only show her what she wants to see and hear, which could be seen as deceiving her.

The last couple to be mentioned are Nana and Zhang Xiao Yan, who were shipped by many. They looked good together, and Zhang Xiao Yan’s awkward attitude was cute. The way he secretly took Nana’s picture showed that he had her in his heart, but he was too shy to admit it.

In their relationship, Nana took all the initiative, and he was just there to receive all the admiration and affection. Nana sees Zhang Xiao Yan as the most perfect person in the universe due to his good looks and intelligence.

However, I am sure that Nana did not always see him as a love interest. Zhang Xiao Yan’s seriousness and rejections poses a challenge for her. Because Nana not only saw him as a potential boyfriend, she also uses him as a career benchmark.

Islands might drain my emotions. I have to find a funny and light drama to adjust my emotional state for a while (I choose to re-watch Love Between Fairy and Devil btw, quite a good option). But this drama did give us some life lessons such as parents should not force their desires to the children under the banner of “it is for your own good”, as it often does not work out as desired.

Instead, it would drive away the children, especially when they reach adulthood. Another important lesson is that love in a marriage may fade over time, so it is important to work hard and be respectful to each other to maintain a successful relationship. Additionally, it is crucial to love and be happy with oneself in order to spread love and happiness to others.

Towards the end of the drama, secrets were revealed, causing heartache and broken hearts. New love emerged while old love diminished. However, every hardship eventually led to happiness. Despite this, I was disappointed with the ending. The relationship between Qiao Hai Yun and Meng Xiang Rong felt like an unnecessary addition to the story, as the problem seemed to come and go abruptly. I wrote the detail about it at seperate post, you can read it at Islands drama ending explained post.

A good drama is not created by one person alone. Islands resulted from excellent cooperation between the director, production team, and actors. Lin Yan, the director of this drama, also created She and Her Perfect Husband drama and With You. Like She and Her Perfect Husband, Islands also addresses women’s empowerment.

Ma Si Chun and Xu Fan’s acting as Li Yi Jin and Meng Ming Wei left me impressed. Their chemistry and intensity were excellent. It’s no surprise, as both are seasoned actresses with an impressive filmography. They are the reason why I rate this drama highly.

Overall, I love this drama. Not only because I am currently interested in the family genre, but also because it is well-made. The intensity of this drama was real. I cried a lot while watching it and it made me reflect on my attachment to Cdrama. Perhaps I need a new hobby after my failed attempt at gardening.

The Cinematography

Islands is a well-made drama with captivating camera movements and detailed costumes. The lighting and angles are also noteworthy, and the drama keeps you on the edge of your seat. I really could not take my eyes off the drama. There was no boring scene at all.

Islands Chinese Drama Review - poster 4

I love how detailed the costume department was. Nana always looked stylish because her mother was also meticulous about her appearance. There was a scene when the pair of mother and daughter were walking down the street. They both wearing wide-legged pants.

Even though the blouses were different and they dressed in different styles, the wide-legged pants are the statement of their close relationship. Li Yi Jin used to choose ordinary clothes just like Meng Ming Wei did. But after she got enlightened, she cut her hair and changed the way she dresses.

Now, Li Yi Jin is more fashionable, but still, she prefers comfort over style. Meng Yi An always dressed in casual clothes. She is busy and often leaves the office for field work. So, she prefers a casual style with a t-shirt and pants.

Their home sets also portrayed their lifestyle. Meng Wan Qing’s home seemed to jump out from the Pinterest pages. The decor of her home reflects her lifestyle, with every piece carefully chosen for its stylish features. Her dressing table is adorned with beautiful items. Despite being the wealthiest member of the family, Meng Yi An’s home exudes a casual style. The house is mostly functional, with few fashionable items, yet it still maintains a stylish aesthetic.

The Characters

Li Yi Jin (played by Ma Si Chun)

Li Yi Jin is the eldest granddaughter of the Meng family. She was born to Meng Ming Wei and Li Cheng Ru. Although not the smartest or the prettiest in her family, she is a hardworking, kind, and sincere young woman. Unfortunately, she has never felt that way. In Li Yi Jin’s mind, she is a failure who will never bring glory to her family.

Islands Chinese Drama Review - Li Yi Jin (played by Ma Si Chun)
Islands Chinese Drama Review – Li Yi Jin (played by Ma Si Chun)

Over the years, Li Jin has endured her mother’s harsh criticism and disparaging words. Meng Ming Wei used to humiliate Li Yi Jin in front of her friends and teachers whenever she was dissatisfied with her daughter.

Meng Ming Wei never realized that her actions were causing mental harm to Li Yi Jin. She believed that it was a mother’s right to scold her daughter. Li Yi Jin has always been alone in her life. Her father was present but never cared for or protected her because of his resentment towards Meng Ming Wei.

Li Yi Jin’s difficult circumstances made her determined to leave home as soon as possible. Eventually, she was accepted into a second-tier university in Shanghai. Li Yi Jin ignored Meng Ming Wei’s advice to repeat a class so she could enroll in a first-tier university and leave her hometown as soon as possible. Her intention was clear: to live far away from her mother. Li Yi Jin is a stubborn person, a trait that seems to be a trademark of the Meng family, as everyone has it.

Li Yi Jin met Zhou Dao when they were in university, and they were in a relationship for seven years before they broke up. Li Yi Jin dreamed of a married life with Zhou Dao that would allow her to separate from her mother. However, her dreams were shattered when she learned that Zhou Dao had no intention of marrying her due to his own family issues.

Meng Ming Wei (played by Xu Fan)

Meng Ming Wei is in her 50s. Since she was young, meng Ming Wei also suffered from insecurity because her gait is limp, a result of a misdiagnosis. She also feels that she is less beautiful and less smart compared to her sisters. Meng Wan Qing and Meng Yi An are both career women.

Islands Chinese Drama Review - Meng Ming Wei (played by Xu Fan)
Islands Chinese Drama Review – Meng Ming Wei (played by Xu Fan)

In contrast, Meng Ming Wei is a retiree who stays at home and takes care of her mother, Qiao Hai Yun. Despite feeling inferior to her sisters, Meng Ming Wei is the best cook in the house and is very meticulous with household chores.

Like her daughter, Meng Ming Wei was also a stubborn person. She believed that whatever she did was good for Li Yi Jin. Meng Ming Wei cared for and loved her daughter sincerely, but her obsession with Li Yi Jin’s happiness had become irrational. She believed that Li Yi Jin would never have any chance to be happy because she was not smart or beautiful enough.

Thus, Meng Ming Wei decided to arrange Li Yi Jin’s future so that she could live a good life. Meng Ming Wei failed to realize that she was projecting her insecurity and unhappiness onto her daughter. As a matter of fact, Meng Ming Wei was the one who thought that she was not beautiful or smart enough.

Li Cheng Ru, who used to be Qiao Hai Yun’s subordinate, was chosen by Qiao Hai Yun to marry Meng Ming Wei. However, over the years, the relationship between Meng Ming Wei and Li Cheng Ru no longer could be saved. Li Cheng Ru had no steady job, and he spent his money on buying stocks.

Tao Shu Na / Nana (played by Sun Qian)

Tao Shu Na also known as Nana, is the most outgoing, affectionate, and lively member of her family. She is both beautiful and intelligent. Currently, Nana is pursuing her PhD and is on track to become a doctor in the future.

Islands Chinese Drama Review - Tao Shu Na:Nana (played by Sun Qian)
Islands Chinese Drama Review – Tao Shu Na:Nana (played by Sun Qian)

Despite her playful nature, Nana is not naive or weak. Behind her sweet facade lies a girl with great strength who spends most of her time in the taekwondo dojo. Nana is courageous and stubborn, much like her sister Li Yi Jin.

Nana has a very good relationship with her mother, Meng Wan Qing. They constantly communicate with each other through phone calls, text messages, and video calls. Nana confides everything in her mother, who patiently listens and supports her in all her endeavors, including matters of the heart.

Nana has been in love with Zhang Xiao Yan since high school. Nana always refused the term ‘pursue’ and insisted that she was merely ‘waiting’ for him to be with her.

Meng Wan Qing (played by Liang Jing)

Meng Wan Qing grew up with middle-child syndrome. She always felt that her mother favored Meng Ming Wei, the eldest, while her father favored Meng Yi An, the youngest. Since she was young, Meng Wan Qing always kept everything to herself. Like her sisters, Meng Wan Qing presents a strong facade but has a soft heart.

Islands Chinese Drama Review - Meng Wan Qing (played by Liang Jing)
Islands Chinese Drama Review – Meng Wan Qing (played by Liang Jing)

In the Meng family, she is known for her nonchalant attitude. Meng Ming Wei often gets angry with her because they live nearby, but she rarely takes care of their mother due to her busy work schedule. However, Meng Wan Qing has to work extra hard. Qiao Hai Yun’s husband, Tao Dalei, is unemployed but enjoys taking dancing and calligraphy classes. He is living a very good life.

It is important to note that this is not a compliment to Tao Dalei’s lifestyle.

In the beginning, Meng Wan Qing’s relationship with Tao Dalei is a passionate one. But Qiao Hai Yun never agrees to let her marry Tao Dalei. Nevertheless, the stubborn Meng Wan Qing is determined to marry him. She stole the Household Registration and went to the Civil Affairs Bureau to get married. Now years later… there are no feelings left in her heart but emptiness.

In the family, only Meng Wan Qing could control her younger sister. Qiao Hai Yun and Meng Ming Wei have always failed to nag or coerce Meng Yi An. Whenever they wanted to do it, they would ask Meng Wan Qing to call her.

Meng Yi An (played by Li Xiao Ran)

Every child has a favorite aunt, and in the Meng family, Meng Yi An holds the title. She is young, modern, open-minded, rational, and successful. Li Yi Jin and Nana love her.

Islands Chinese Drama Review - Meng Yi An (played by Li Xiao Ran)
Islands Chinese Drama Review – Meng Yi An (played by Li Xiao Ran)

Because Meng Yi An lives in Shanghai, Meng Ming Wei and Meng Wan Qing often ask her about their children’s lives in Shanghai. However, Meng Yi An always makes her stance clear, especially to Meng Ming Wei, that she refuses to be her sisters’ spy.

Meng Yi An’s life appeared happy, but like her sisters, she often put on a brave facade in front of her family. She divorced Professor Qiu Xia after a big quarrel that hurt both parties but kept Meng Yi An divorced for a year, but she hid it from her family because she was worried it would disturb her mother’s health. Meng Yi An and Qiu Xia now practice co-parenting to raise their daughter, Qiu Chang Le or Qiu Qiu).

Qiao Hai Yun (played by Song Chun Li)

As the matriarch of the Meng family, Qiao Hai Yun established a rule that all members of the family should celebrate Chinese New Year and her birthday at her home. Due to filial piety, nobody dares to break the rule, and so the sons-in-law of the Meng family must yield to it.

Islands Chinese Drama Review - Qiao Hai Yun (played by Song Chun Li)
Islands Chinese Drama Review – Qiao Hai Yun (played by Song Chun Li)

Qiao Hai Yun used to juggle between work and home as a busy mother. She was once the head of the factory. This experience made her a strict mother and a wise grandmother. She is an independent woman who does not want her daughter to worry about her life. However, she could not refuse her daughter’s care because she was old and needed it.

The Conclusion

Islands drama is an excellent Chinese family drama that closely reflects reality. The drama is highly recommended for those who enjoy angst dramas. It contains many heartwarming scenes that will melt your heart. However, it also deals with heavy topics such as toxic families, so it may not be suitable for everyone. I often watch an angst drama, but the way Li Yi Jin and Meng Ming Wei fought still made me shiver. Their acting was impeccable and it feels like a real thing.

So, if this drama suits your taste, then watch it! Don’t miss any episodes because it’s worth your time. Remember to watch it on the weekend because this drama will make you want to binge-watch all the episodes. Hope this Islands drama review helps. Now are you ready to make your eye bags a little larger? Have fun binge-watching, and see you at another Chinese drama review. Thank you!

Iya Moyya
Iya Moyya
"A Chinese drama and movie lover for the past 5 years. I contemplate everything, everyday" - Do you like my writing? You can support me by clicking this donation link: Buy Me A Coffee ☕️, thank you!


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"Islands Chinese drama is an excellent family drama that closely reflects reality."Islands Chinese Drama Review
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