03 October 2012


I love watching Taiwanese movies like this. They never reveal everything in the movie and leave bits and pieces of puzzle for the audience to figure things out on their own. The fun thing is, depending on one's imagination, everyone may have a different conclusion or perspective of the storyline. Such movies therefore do not appeal to audiences who want all questions to be answered without a shred of uncertainty.

This movie "Girlfriend, Boyfriend" (direct translation) revolves around three characters Mabel (played by Gwei Lun-mei), Liam (by Joseph Chang, who incidentally acted as a gay in another earlier movie "Eternal Summer") and Aaron (by Rhydian Vaughan) and spanned over a period of about 30 years with flashbacks in three time zones 1985, 1990 and 1997. It tracked the development of their relationship across Taiwan's social changes from a conservative martial law society to a reformed one that was more liberal.

The movie opened with a bearded Liam being interrogated in a high school on his ambiguous relationship to a pair of rebellious twin girls who incited their classmates to stage an uprising to wear shorts instead of skirts.

With his explanation, the year was brought back to 1985 where Liam, Mabel and Aaron were shown as a part of a group of student helpers to pick Magnolia flowers from the trees for sale. Mabel and Liam grew up together as childhood buddies and the tomboyish former held a touch for the shy and quiet Liam. Aaron was apparently a new classmate, who together with the other two, formed a close-knit and inseparable trio over the years to come. When Mabel found out that the unresponsive Liam did not share the same feelings towards her, the heartbroken girl decided to accept Aaron's pursuit and became his girlfriend. Unbeknownst to her, Liam had the hots for Aaron instead but stood by them without revealing his innermost feelings.

5 years later in 1990, they graduated from high school and Mabel was a dancing instructor by then. Liam continued to support Aaron by being his partner in student protests activities. Mabel united with the two during the monumental 1990 demonstration and it was then that their relationship took another dive. After witnessing the lovemaking between Mabel and Aaron, the devastated and closeted Liam sought solace in public sex with a police officer in the parade square. On the other hand, Mabel discovered Aaron cheating on her with a rich girl from the student protests movement and left him. In a heart to heart exchange of few words but with lots of tears, Mabel finally realized that the person in Liam's heart all those years was actually Aaron.

The scene fast forward to the year 1997. By then, the once carefree Aaron was already married to the girl but ironically lost his freedom as he was severely controlled by his rich and influential father-in-law. Mabel also became the third party in his marriage. Liam, on the other hand, was attached to a married man. After evading the pair for years, Liam was re-united with Mabel and Aaron by chance. It was then that Mabel discovered that she was pregnant with twins by Aaron. At the same time, she was diagnosed with a malign tumour which grew aggressively with the twins development. Liam also broke off with his partner of many years. The latter pair reconnected emotionally once again after their personal setbacks.

The movie then shifted back to the present where it was clear that the twin girls were the daughters of Aaron and Mabel, who passed away after the childbirth. Liam took on the responsibility of raising the girls all those years as their guardian and was both a brother and father to them. There was no mention of Aaron at all, so it was anyone's guess what happened to him along the way. Liam sacrificed and devoted his personal life towards bringing up the girls and one couldn't help it but wonder if he did it out of his love for Aaron, Mabel or both?

This is yet another poignant movie that explores the intricacies and complexities of human emotions. The tagline "everyone deserves to have someone who loves them and someone whom they love" is food for thought for everyone. Whilst I am sure that the producer deliberately created some unexplained scenes to give the audience the room to make their own deductions and form their own perspectives, I am also pretty sure that some pivotal scenes were cut out by the local censorship authorities. Overall, I enjoyed the movie but I may have to check out the novel if I want all the answers to the numerous questions.