Your Name Engraved Herein ***
Starring: Edward Chen, Jing-Hua Tseng, Fabio Grageon, Mimi Shao
Director: Kuang-Hui Liu
The very first LGBT+ movie to break $100million at the box office in Asia, this Taiwanese romance has arrived in the UK, courtesy of Netflix. Set in 1987, just after decades of martial law have ended, two schoolboys discover that their expectation of immediate freedoms is unlikely to materialise as quickly as they had hoped.
A-han (Chen) is completely enamoured with the free-spirited new boy in his class, Birdy (Tseng). They sneak away together, breaking the Catholic school’s rules to do as they please at night. They even take advantage of the death of the President to represent the school at his funeral in Taipei, instead going to enjoy a weekend alone together in the big city, where their feelings develop into something much deeper. But under the watchful eye of their Canadian priest (Grageon), the two feel heavy pressure to conform within a society that is far from ready to accept them for who they are. As Birdy catches the eye of a female classmate (Shao), he pretends to everyone – including A-han – that he is actually in love with her, much to his lover’s chagrin.
Both A-han and Birdy are incredibly likeable leads and you absolutely root for them to find a way to be together. Of course it’s never going to be as simple as that, but after a while you can’t help but feel frustrated that it’s the couple’s internal barriers that are preventing them from being together the most. After a while, the film becomes a series of missed moments and characters not saying what they’re really feeling, which is maddening.
Then we get the film’s peculiar final act, which swerves forward in time, right up to the present day. As teens, the boys are charming, but as adults, not so much. The film spends a lot of time establishing a slow-burning romance between them, so its unusual narrative choice jars somewhat, as we see the long-term consequences of their tempestuous teenage years together.
For the die-hard romantics, there’s plenty to feast on, especially in one especially touching moment when A-han plays a song he has written – whose title is the same as the film – down the phone to a weeping Birdy. With a sometimes funny script, good performances and subtle cinematographic palate, this is sturdy filmmaking, but it doesn’t quite ignite that same guttural connection to the romance as a Brokeback or a Carol. Like the recent Thai Present Perfect films, it feels like love on a micro-scale and not part of something bigger. But unlike its Thai counterpart, it takes itself much more seriously indeed.
OUT NOW TO WATCH ON NETFLIX.