[Film Review] Girlfriend Boyfriend (2012)

Girlfriend Boyfriend poster

Title: Girlfriend Boyfriend
Original Title: GF*BF 女朋友·男朋友
Year: 2012
Country: Taiwan
Language: Mandarin, Min Nan
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director/Writer: Yang Yache 杨雅喆
Cinematography: Jake Pollock 包轩鸣
Music: Chung Hing-man 钟兴民
Kwei Lun-mei 桂纶镁
Chang Hsiao-chuan 张孝全
Rhydian Vaughan 凤小岳
Bryan Chang Shu-hao 张书豪
Serena Fang 房思瑜
Ding Ning 丁宁
Rating: 6.3/10

Girlfriend Boyfriend 1

Ten years after Chihyen Yee’s BLUE GATE CROSSING (2002), which is a powerhouse debut for Lun Mei Gwei, who plays a schoolgirl harbours a secretive lesbian love to her best friend, but is also pursued by the boy who is her best friend’s object of unrequited admiration. In Ya-che Yang’s second feature after the box office dark-horse ORZ BOYZ (2008), GF*BF remoulds the love triangle with a girl and two boys, and ambitiously tracks their life orbit from late 1980s to the present, however, an unerring selling point is the all-the-rage queer leitmotif.

From their high school days in 1980s, Mabel (Kwei), Liam (Chang Hsiao-chuan) and Aaron (Vaughan) are three close schoolmates and rebellious to the militarised education of their school, discernibly Mabel has feelings for the introvert but kindhearted Liam, but the latter never make an initiative to chase after her, instead, a more exuberant and hot-blooded Aaron woos her and they become lovers.

In 1990, Liam and Aaron are college flatmates, at the heat of a critical social change which demands democracy in Taiwan, the ambitious Aaron is an avid adherent of student movement, and the three reunite as protestants in a sit-down in front of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, but little as they know, their future is never how they can imagine. When wine is in, truth is out, during an after-party, Liam finally reveals to Mabel his affection towards Aaron, and Mabel is also devastated to realise she and Aaron can never be together.

7 years later, out of the ivory tower, Aaron marries into a rich family and Mabel is his mistress; Liam, also is a lover of a closet man with a family, they meet again, friendship forever, is just a hollow slogan to save the face, Aaron’s attempt to elope with Mabel foils at the last minute in the airport, again Mabel heartbreakingly braces herself to be the bravest one. Liam is the one who knows her best, their train of thought clings to the remembrance of the past, but a malignant tumour will make things easier for them. In the coda set in 2012, a middle-age Liam is the custodian of Mabel’s twin daughters, an unheralded Mr. nice guy sacrifices his life to raise the offspring of his best friends one of whom he is in love with and another he is unable to love.

A box-office success, and grabbed 7 Golden Horse Awards nominations (encompasses the big 5 with cinematography and a Supporting Actor nomination for the transformative Bryan Shu-Hao Chang as a silver-tongued sissy queen) and won Gwei a coveted BEST ACTRESS trophy for her transfixing performance, who again and again deservingly salvages the film from its dullest and most arbitrary moments, Mabel’s tribulations are poignantly presented with a force of impact so powerful and destructive, wonderfully contrasts to Hsiao-chuan Chang’s repressed implosion, which is also painful to watch, and it heralds Hsiao-chuan’s rosy effort to venture into a wider spectrum as a mature actor instead of a brawny pretty boy who leaves an indelible impression in Leste Chen’s ETERNAL SUMMER (2006), another ménage-à-trois teen-spirit love confusion. Vaughan, the red-hot British-and-Taiwanese mixed-blooded jock from MONGA (2010) and TINY TIMES series (2013-2014), is a fresh-air but fails to lift the momentum under his belt, his Aaron is the most ambiguous one among the trinity, his comeuppance is never mentioned, but we can conjure up from the context, he is the most pathetic one.

One cannot overlook the ambition from Ya-che Yang, who tries to conjoin politics with a youth culture of repression and rebellion extending almost 25 years, but never quite hits the bull’s-eye, utilising conspicuously emotive songs to amp up an atmosphere of grandeur and upsurging emotions also falls contrived and wanting. It is a beautifully shot film nevertheless and the performances are highly recommendable, Kwei Lun-mei and Chang Hsiao-chuan are among my Top 10 lists of 2012 so far.

Oscar 2012 - Girlfriend Boyfriend

Lunmei Gwei

Lunmei Gwei

Rhydian Vaughan and Hsiao-chuan Chang

Rhydian Vaughan and Hsiao-chuan Chang

a tête-à-tête near the pool

a tête-à-tête near the pool

a gay wedding

a gay wedding

student sit-down protest in front of the  Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

student sit-down protest in front of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

a mix-blooded idol, Rhydian Vaughan

a mix-blooded idol, Rhydian Vaughan


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