Girlfriend. Boyfriend. 女朋友 .男朋友. ramblings


This is NOT a full review of the film. I still need to get some things sorted out.

I finished the film last night, in tears and in total utter blankness. Moments and scenes touched and moved me, made me ache in agony over the characters’ experiences and feelings. Scenes stalled me, giving the wondrous and loveliest of feelings. The performances, utterly wonderful, with touches of explosiveness and restrained nuances, added with a mix of boldness and vulnerability. I was emotionally engaged. But ONE THING, it may have been my lack of understanding and afterthought, it may have been the drink I had last night, it could be just me, cos in spite of the combination of such exquisite direction from Yang Ya Tze and the award-deserving performances by the actors (esp by Kwai Lun Mei), the film failed to connect with me at an intellectual level. It felt confusing at times, convoluted and somewhat a bit of an overflow of effort trying too hard to achieve something out of its reach. But I’ve read countless glowing reviews praising the entire film’s intention and aim at presenting what we may call, the complexity and sensitivity of youth and adolescence. In that it manages to tell a story of friendship, not in the usual sugary sweet and naive context, but in ways in which circumstantial factors may come into the picture, making things a lot more complicated. I’m pretty sure I’m on the same track despite my lack of understanding of certain scenes. As much as certain scenes manage to swallow and engulf me emotionally, there is no denying the disconnect is there, I need to overcome it in order for me to fully understand and give this film a fair judgment overall.

Girlfriend. Boyfriend. 女朋友 .男朋友. is very sincerely directed and executed, it is stylish and leaves a very memorable impression on the first go. It intrigues you and gets you into the mood right of the bat. It revolves around friendship, love, politics, ambition and many other elements entailing those emotions. But most of all amidst that, the core essence is that of a complicated mix of all that in the growing up up 3 close friends played by Kwai Lun Mei, Joseph Chang and Rhydian Vaughan. Film is also set during a controversial and socially turbulent period in Taiwan (the 1980s) when students rioted and strived to achieve social change, to thrive for freedom from restraint, to make a difference against the then government.

I think the concept is brilliant, the tackling of strayed minds of youth, the dealing of complex feelings between individuals, and not just boy and girl. Kwai Lun Mei’s Mable (Mei Bao) plays the centric female character, the defining figure of JC’s Liam (Zhong Liang) and Rhydian’s Aaron (Ah Ren) youth and adult years. They grow up together, experience life of social change together, give their all for each other, and slowly discover that when times and circumstances change, lil things that string them together fall apart. Friendship at its purest can waver and moments of togetherness are put to the test.

The reason why I say this film is difficult to review is because nothing is clear cut in it. The relationships, the motivations and even the consequences thereof certain actions of the characters in the film. I like that it tries to tell a story of 3 individuals who try to maintain their friendship as time passes, in spite of how jaded and emotionally affected they slowly become with each other. The characters are all not caricatures of any sorts, they exhibit traits of youth that can be found in us, in the young and ambitious spirit within us, foibles and warts of personalities regardless. They’re not perfect in any way, but are realistically jaded and sensitive to the teeniest and minutest of changes. They’re pretty much a reflection of the complex human being that we may be if want to think it that way.

The acting performances range from good to great in here. Rhydian is the weakest link but he serves his character well, giving Ah Ren a sense of endearing naivete amidst his flamboyant-ish character. Joseph Chang is spot on as the reserved and considerate buddy Zhong Liang who bottles up emotions but convey them effectively thru gazes and restrained inner acting. But Kwai Lun Mei’s Mable steals the show. The actress is absolutely mesmerising as Mable, she adds layers of spunk and boldness to the character effortlessly, and switches to vulnerability and dependance in a blink of an eye without any glitch. She is that comfortable in her role it reminds me so much of a more heightened and mature Meng Ke Rou (Blue Gate Crossing). Truly the GH Best Actress deserving performance.

But film is confusing at times, often times making me wonder whether things are not purposely spelled out to make us viewers grain our brains a bit. The film is really beautiful, has lovely music with a very earthy soothing vibe, but it misses beats when things need to be clear. What I need is something, the dots to connect everything together, coherently and cohesively. I get the message, I truly do, but there are scenes that just make me go HUUH?! Scenes that require a better explanation. I tried to think over em last night and I still can’t quite grasp the whys and hows. I love the film for it’s attempt in trying to address love and friendship in such an organic and creative way. But the execution may have been too far out of reach for me. It’s either I’m not good enough, or the film just didn’t cut it.

I need your thoughts and am open and welcome to any kind of discussion on the film (if any).

In case you’re interested or intrigued, have the English subbed trailer:

credits: as tagged / youtube

15 thoughts on “Girlfriend. Boyfriend. 女朋友 .男朋友. ramblings”

  1. Hi there,

    Usually I lurk around here silently but couldn’t help it this time but to comment since I too so happened to watch the movie recently and I felt the same thing like you did…disconnect-ment..yup I just came up with that word.

    Umm,first the characters…I however totally agree and disagree with you. Rhydian is definitely the weakest link especially when he is trying to emote sadness..I never thought I would say this but he is ugly when he tries to cry. Joseph is giving his usual awesomeness but I think he is so comfortable in these sort of roles it feels like,at least to me,he is not giving his best. Kwai Lun Mei however is the biggest disappointment for me. Surpringly, I find that her acting feels so forced. I admit that I have not watched Blue Gate Crossing or maybe it’s just I’m so used to her acting out roles of like in Secret but I feel like Kwai Lun Mei and Alice Ke are quite similiar as in they are better when they underact.To let the silence or emotions speak for themselves. In GF/BF I felt that her acting is so in your face sort of way,its like I see her acting her role but I don’t see her as the character itself.

    Story wise, I get the theme and concept,I love the setting but I hate the execution of it. I think it’s trying to fit too many things in that in the end it achieves nothing.I would prefer it let’s say the story concentrated on the teenage years or maybe just the adult years instead of trying to mesh both in because I was confused. I never really got if KLM’s character really loved Joseph’s or if did Rhydian really loved KLM. Like you mentioned aboved some scenes do require some more explaination and I blame it again on execution.

    All in all the movie didn’t reach out to me…I think I might just go rewatch Eternal Summer to just experience the angst of growing up.

    1. Eternal Summer was lovely, so as Blue Gate Crossing (watch it!). They both dealt with similar issues as GF.BF, about teenage angst, inferior complexes, with the same soothing vibe and understated current beneath the surface, but they were easier to relate to. What GF. BF. failed to deliver it failed to connect logically at certain points.

      It’s funny how at ease Joseph is at such type of roles right? I do think he could have been better but ultimately his character isn’t the outwardly type, who constantly keeps to himself, I think he did very well in expressing whatever emotions he had thru his eyes. You could totally feel his pain and struggle without words expressed. On KLM, guess we’d have to agree to disagree then because I honestly think she carried the show a tad more than the rest. Mable is such a bodacious character her energy effervesces and transmits, when emotions start to flow, they break out without warning. I love that when she explodes, she still manages to display a certain softness that we never get to see very often with her character.


      You’re right, the film does try to achieve too many things in a span of 1hr45mins. I wish it was longer because certain scenes just lost me. For instance, the swimming pool scene. It really was quite a heartfelt emotional scene between Mable and Liam, but what I didn’t get was the hand-writing scene, it was confusing. My initial take was that when Liam wrote Ren on Mable’s hand, it was a means of telling Mable that he liked/loved Ren, and when Mable wrote Mei on Liam’s hand, she was telling him that Ren loved her. But other viewers thought otherwise and took that Mable was in fact telling Liam that she was all this while in love with Liam. I do not doubt that, but it just came very out of the blue when all this while she’s been so affectionate with Ren (I don’t doubt her love for Ren, but it’s probably less deep than hers for Liam?).

      And the blank letter scene with Liam laughing and crying at different instances, that I really didn’t get, and still can’t quite figure out. What do you think?


      1. I really didn’t get the hand-writing part too..from my Pov I think the same way you did that “Liam wrote Ren on Mable’s hand, it was a means of telling Mable that he liked/loved Ren, and when Mable wrote Mei on Liam’s hand, she was telling him that Ren loved her”…
        I always feel that KLM was loving Ren to compensate her being unable to love Liam..

        I remember joking to my friend at the scene where the 4 of them were having sex?Liam saw Ren in instead of his bf no? And I was telling my friend then Mable would be seeing Liam instead. I might be wrong in interpretation that scene but the way the movie was cut/directed…it felt that way too me.

        and the blank letter only interpretation is that no words is needed because all is understood and nothing needed to be said between friends??

        to be honest I did space out at a few scenes because it just did not managed to capture me the way I wanted it to be…Sad..

        And Joseph..he is the best at emoting with his eyes…now to come to think of it,his Liam’s role and the role he had in Eternal Summer is a little different since in Eternal Summer he was the outgoing one.

      2. Ah yes, I totally forgot. Joseph was the outspoken and lively one in ES, the other actor was really good too, I wonder where he’s gone to now. Haven’t seen him in anything.

        Half-way thru I kept thinking perhaps Mable had already moved on from Liam, what with her lovable affections with Ren. But the swimming pool scene shifted things a bit, especially after I read other differing opinions on how she’d in fact not moved on, but just sorta considered Ren a replacement or like you said, a compensatory figure of her not having been able to reach out to Liam’s heart. Honestly felt sorry for Ren because tho he had to make really awful choices (between Mable and the other girl because she’s got some political connections?), I felt he really genuinely loved Mable.

        It was not until the sex scene did RL root upon me that Mable really wanted Liam. My interpretation is the same as yours.

        And the blank letter scene, you’re probably right on that. Thing is, they understood each other, I did NOT! hahaha. Probably things really needn’t to be said between Mable and Liam because they knew each other so so well. But as a viewer, I couldn’t help but just be curious about what were the unsaid words between them. First time Liam read the blank letter he smiled, then later later on, probably a scene right after, he cried. I thought it could be a confession from Mable, but then why smile and then cry?

      3. Bryant Zhang…I googled him..ahahah..the last time I sort of saw him was in the drama he was in with Ariel&Joe…A pity how he is really good but not able to attract viewers the way some actors do…and you have to admit some viewers have very shallow *I admit that I am too but prettiness only goes so far for me* and shall we say weird taste…you know the guy who acted in ‘You Are the Apple of My Eyes’?So overrated the movie and well as the cast and I didn’t watch it but the actor is like the one of the hottest item…and to be honest I don’t get him..

        See the thing with Ren&Mable,again I think it’s because of the execution, it is not explained WHY they didn’t end up together.I mean why did Ren marry the other woman…and how much Mable must have love Liam that she is willing to be a married man…and seriously,I mean I know Ren loves Mable but…I don’t know,it’s so not justified and so not satisfying..I mean we are talking about this guy who is so passionate about the social movement and then you zoom to the future and he becomes someone who doesn’t even fight for the woman that he loves? It’s just so weird and because of that I don’t sympathize with him because I’m sure he was given a choice..I mean no one pointed at gun at his temple.

        I don’t either when it comes to the letter but here is my take. So when Liam first saw the blank letter he probably thinks…”aaahh this is so Mable like” hence the laugh and then he cried because it is something only someone very close to you and someone who truly understands you would do.

      4. and it might also be because everything is over and nothing could be done to repair/claim what has happened…so that is why he cried??

      5. You Are The Apple Of My Eye was a meh overrated film. Both leads were serviceable in their characters, but story just didn’t appeal much and enough for me. Kai Ko’s handsome but I don’t get him, as well as Michelle Chen. But they started off as rookies/noobies in the film and soared straight up because it became a hit, so it’s kinda understandable that they’re selling like hot cupcakes nowadays.

        Hmmm… I thought it was quite clear towards the end why Ren and Mable parted ways at the airport. I think she’d already made up quite a firm mind to leave the country with Ren but just couldn’t bear to see a child lose his father because of her. Hence the last gesture of appreciation of his love for her i.e. the dance at the airport. You know Ren could have been a fulfilling character just as much as Liam (he’s obviously the lead), but writer just failed to make the fullest potential out of him. I think Ren loved Mable with all his heart, but couldn’t fight all out for her due to his commitment to his social ambitions (his wife and father in law were his stepping stone or something?). And I genuinely think he’s a good person, but just didn’t know what to do when he’s faced with choices and dilemma. Imo any route he takes, either by staying with his family or leaving with Mable, someone’s gonna be hurt.

        The letter part still confuses me no matter how much I think about it. Maybe I should just move on hahah.

      6. Maybe you should give it a break for some time then rewatch it..that is usually what I do and its surprising what you’ll find the second round.
        I’m the kind of person who can watch a movie more than a dozen times and each time I discover something different..a glance that I missed or the way the lines are delivered or maybe just the way I interpret a scene changes..

  2. God, I wished I could MAKE myself watch this, but the trailer alone gave me too many feels. I just KNEW it was one of those films that’s great and leaves you bittersweet and wistful by the end of it like Shu Qi and Leon Lai’s City of Glass. I JUST KNEW.

    Verdict: Not strong enough, laters.

    1. Watch it, and let me know what you think about it! It has some pensive moments, some cute and some endearing, moments and emotions just gush up to you without warning. But I fess I need some feedback of interpretations of certain scenes, when you do watch it one day, please do come back here and share 🙂

      1. oh, I will. Sometimes I feel like hurting myself, that’s when I’ll watch all the emo-unhappy-endings-but-not-quite shows. Bring it on, rip my heart out and feed it to the dogs!

  3. I have to skip your lovely post because haven’t finish the movie….watched ~30 min of it a while back and felt…it’s a bit trying too hard on GLM’s part and slightly disappointed, factoring in my ridiculous expectation of it. All I can rem of my impression was the one performing most naturally is shockingly Rhydian and I just have to stop and not tarnish my love for my TW girlcrush and Joe. Heard fr my gfs it’s not comparable to Eternal Summer (my first falling for Joe) and same token Blue Gate Crossing for Gwei……so I stopped.

    But I must find time to finish it properly and ramble here with you.

    1. Ahh, I had some expectations before going in, but not that high. But knowing the critic you are, I am prepared for any comments good or bad coming my way hehe. It’s really not as great as Eternal Summer and BGC, so you’ve still got em to hold close to heart.

      I didn’t expect you to be disappointed by GLM’s performance, I thought she nailed the boldness and vulnerability of Mable spot on. But yeah, perhaps you had really high expects while I went in watching in doubt whether she could top her performance in BGC.

      If you end up watching, please do come back and let me know what you think of certain scenes, I’ll tell. Because I still can’t get what writer/director’s trying to say.

  4. I’m still don’t understand the story of this movie? What is the meaning about that swimming pool scene? Is that means that Liam and Mabel expressed their love to each other? or just something about friendship? And then about that blank letter and hand-writing scene. I still don’t get about it. The last thing that I confused the most is, does that two young girl who are being adopted by Liam is Mebel’s daughter? So where is Mabel then? Does Liam turn to be normal and loving Mabel?

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