Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Girlfriend Boyfriend

Taiwanese nationalism provides a weird backdrop to a moody romantic triangle that stretches out over three decades.

Aug 2, 2012

-By Daniel Eagan


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1358388-Girlfriend_Boyfriend_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

An attractive cast boosts the otherwise mopey Girlfriend Boyfriend, which drags out a romantic triangle over three decades of Taiwanese politics. Writer-director Ya-Che Yang has mounted an impressive production, but can't sustain a storyline that's both predictable and repetitive. Prospects here look weak.

The liveliest scenes in the film take place in 1985, when high-school classmates Mabel (Lun Mei Gwei), Liam (Joseph Chang) and Aaron (Rhydian Vaughan) rebel against the oppressive discipline hemming in their lives with graffiti, fireworks and punk haircuts. Mabel, whose mother soon abandons her, throws herself at Liam, but he confesses to Aaron that he doesn't love her. Aaron does, but can't get Mabel to commit to him.

In 1990, the country is still under martial law. Liam and Aaron, now college students, take part in campus demonstrations that draw riot police. Liam reveals to Mabel that he is attracted to Aaron. Mabel realizes that Aaron is falling for a wealthy girl with political connections.

By 1997, all three are out of school. Liam is in the midst of an unsatisfying affair with a married man. Mabel pretends that she is happy with her arrangement with Aaron, who is married to a politician's daughter. But when she learns that she is pregnant, Mabel faces tough decisions about her future.

A novelist who has worked extensively in television, Ya-Che Yang understands how minute choices and gestures can doom relationships, and can detail precisely the desire and jealousy that drive Mabel, Liam and Aaron. That doesn't mean the three are fun to hang around with. Withdrawn, self-absorbed, hypersensitive, they spend most of the film drinking and holding grudges.

All three look good even while crying, with Chang perhaps most affecting as a gay man during a time when homosexuality was still illegal. Vaughan can't do much with a role that requires him to be a cad to just about everyone he meets. Forced to wear an unflattering wig later in the film, Lun Mei Gwei is more persuasive as a bouncy but crafty student in her early scenes.

The opening of Girlfriend Boyfriend hews closely to last year's You Are the Apple of My Eye, a dramedy about lovelorn Taiwanese students that was a massive hit throughout Asia. Viewers expecting something along those lines are likely to be disappointed with the worn-out thirty-something clichés Ya-Che Yang ultimately offers.

There's no question that Yang is committed to his material, and long stretches of Girlfriend Boyfriend have the honest, lived-in feel of autobiography. It's too bad the characters can't get past statements like "I'm a miserable mess" or "At least one of us is happy—that's enough." (For the record, the onscreen title is Gf*Bf.)


Film Review: Girlfriend Boyfriend

Taiwanese nationalism provides a weird backdrop to a moody romantic triangle that stretches out over three decades.

Aug 2, 2012

-By Daniel Eagan


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1358388-Girlfriend_Boyfriend_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

An attractive cast boosts the otherwise mopey Girlfriend Boyfriend, which drags out a romantic triangle over three decades of Taiwanese politics. Writer-director Ya-Che Yang has mounted an impressive production, but can't sustain a storyline that's both predictable and repetitive. Prospects here look weak.

The liveliest scenes in the film take place in 1985, when high-school classmates Mabel (Lun Mei Gwei), Liam (Joseph Chang) and Aaron (Rhydian Vaughan) rebel against the oppressive discipline hemming in their lives with graffiti, fireworks and punk haircuts. Mabel, whose mother soon abandons her, throws herself at Liam, but he confesses to Aaron that he doesn't love her. Aaron does, but can't get Mabel to commit to him.

In 1990, the country is still under martial law. Liam and Aaron, now college students, take part in campus demonstrations that draw riot police. Liam reveals to Mabel that he is attracted to Aaron. Mabel realizes that Aaron is falling for a wealthy girl with political connections.

By 1997, all three are out of school. Liam is in the midst of an unsatisfying affair with a married man. Mabel pretends that she is happy with her arrangement with Aaron, who is married to a politician's daughter. But when she learns that she is pregnant, Mabel faces tough decisions about her future.

A novelist who has worked extensively in television, Ya-Che Yang understands how minute choices and gestures can doom relationships, and can detail precisely the desire and jealousy that drive Mabel, Liam and Aaron. That doesn't mean the three are fun to hang around with. Withdrawn, self-absorbed, hypersensitive, they spend most of the film drinking and holding grudges.

All three look good even while crying, with Chang perhaps most affecting as a gay man during a time when homosexuality was still illegal. Vaughan can't do much with a role that requires him to be a cad to just about everyone he meets. Forced to wear an unflattering wig later in the film, Lun Mei Gwei is more persuasive as a bouncy but crafty student in her early scenes.

The opening of Girlfriend Boyfriend hews closely to last year's You Are the Apple of My Eye, a dramedy about lovelorn Taiwanese students that was a massive hit throughout Asia. Viewers expecting something along those lines are likely to be disappointed with the worn-out thirty-something clichés Ya-Che Yang ultimately offers.

There's no question that Yang is committed to his material, and long stretches of Girlfriend Boyfriend have the honest, lived-in feel of autobiography. It's too bad the characters can't get past statements like "I'm a miserable mess" or "At least one of us is happy—that's enough." (For the record, the onscreen title is Gf*Bf.)
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Sagrada
Film Review: Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation

The fabulous 130-year work-in-progress that is Barcelona's Sagrada Familia cathedral, as well as its crazy-brilliant originator, Antonio Gaudi, is the focus of this vividly informative documentary. More »

Inside the Mind of Leonardo
Film Review: Inside the Mind of Leonardo in 3D

Documentary-feature hybrid that offers unexpected insight into the world of Leonardo da Vinci, but nonetheless suffers from a heavy hand and pretentious sensibility. More »

If You Don't., I Will
Film Review: If You Don't, I Will

Anemic drama about a forever-bickering couple who do not at all get along nor emit a scintilla of chemistry. It’s a disappointing, too-lean portrait of a marriage. More »

Mr. Turner
Film Review: Mr. Turner

In Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, arguably the year’s most gorgeous film, Timothy Spall etches an indelible portrait of the great painter, aided by a marvelous supporting cast who make the period spring alive. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Into the Woods
Film Review: Into the Woods

Over-scaled, too dark and only intermittently charming Sondheim musical adaptation does a disservice to a great cast and is often so noisy you can't even appreciate the music. More »

The H obbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Film Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

After rewriting the rules for modern fantasy cinema, for the better and worse, Peter Jackson’s six-film Tolkien saga slams, bangs and shudders to a long-overdue conclusion. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here