Unexpectedly powerful, Gf*Bf is a film about friendship and family that surely pushes the envelope. Three friends live through the democratization and fictional liberalization of Taiwan, reaching its ideological climax with its views on youth and maturity.
Girlfriend Boyfriend is not about rebellion and young love. Its chronological range spans from 1995 to 2012, recounting the modern history of Taiwan as a country that was under Martial Law, followed by the climate of a country where such a Law has been lifted. Witnessing the events that lead to the democratization of Taiwan, the viewer follows Mabel, Liam, and Aaron; three inseparable friends emotionally involved with each other. Starting from innocence and foolishness as repressed teenagers in the middle of rebellion and student protests, Mabel wants to be with Liam, but Liam implicitly likes Aaron, and Aaron explicitly wants to be with Mabel. Eventually, Mabel accepts Aaron’s proposal to be his girlfriend, and Liam must accept the fact that Aaron is not gay.
As time goes by, the characters find themselves in a stage of their lives dominated by their freedom and expression, however that freedom is only transparent. Aaron is married, and Mabel is his “other woman;” they’re both outside social morality, even more so when Mabel finds out she’s pregnant, and it’s Aaron’s baby. Liam finds himself alone, never having found true love, satisfied by holding a sexual relationship with a married man, who is still in the closet. Everyone ends up being in an emotional hole and until maturity strikes, loss is met. They must figure out what to do with their situations in order to make something out of their lives.
Placing a special visual emphasis on homosexuality as an expression of love and freedom in an essentially repressed society, Director Ya-Che Yang depicts Taiwanese gay society. A huge party with people running around, drinking and smoking, wearing everything from nothing to tuxedoes, all celebrate the marriage of two men. In reality, fantasies of gay marriage go beyond Taiwanese social approval. However, the film is not about opposite-sex or same-sex relationships, but more about human relationships. The result is a kind of ‘unidealized’ love, since none of the characters get what they want, but are forced to exert love to those who need it.
The film’s narrative is well-handled, for its form is synced with the vision of the characters in a given point in time. One of the most memorable scenes features an interesting montage of voice-over given by Aaron speaking of freedom in Taiwan, while Liam is having a romantic encounter with a policeman who ends up beating him for being gay.
Boyfriend Girlfriend is a film that reaffirms the potential of international cinema, opening up a space to the consideration of Taiwanese film in the American public. It takes a common theme and makes it original, while offering a foreign perspective on subjects that are all too familiar in the United States like political freedom and homosexuality.
Boyfriend Girlfriend will come out on August 3rd on select theatres throughout North America. Be sure to drop by the AMC Loews Boston Common if you live in the Boston area.