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