Despite the admirable efforts of its three well-cast leads to affectingly illuminate all the facets of their complicated, even contradictory characters, Ya-che Yang’s “Girlfriend Boyfriend” comes off as underwhelming and, especially during its final third, dramatically muddled. While attempting to chart the evolving parameters of a romantic triangle over two decades of Taiwan’s tumultuous societal upheavals, Yang fails to adequately explore either the personal or the political aspects of his drama.After a brief, ambiguous prologue in contemporary times, pic flashes back to 1985 to introduce spunky Mabel (Gwei Lun-mei), rambunctious Aaron (Rhydian Vaughan) and closeted Liam (Joseph Chang) as high-school activists rebelling against the iron rule of martial law in Taiwan. Mabel hopelessly loves Liam, but settles for Aaron — a decision she comes to regret as decades pass. The leads do a good job of indicating the aging, if not necessarily the maturing, of their characters. But the storytelling is so elliptical, it’s conceivable some auds will remain uncertain about key plot elements (including the marital status of at least one character) after the closing credits roll. Handsome production values help, but not enough.
A China Lion Film Distribution (in U.S.) release of an Atom Cinema production in association with Ocean Deep Films, Central Motion Pictures Corp., Huayi Brothers Intl. Media and Ko-Hiong-Lang. Produced by Yeh Jufeng, Liu Weijan. Executive producers, Kuen Lin, Mini H.W. Yao. Directed, written by Ya-che Yang.
Camera (color), Jake Pollock; editor, Chen Chung-hung; music supervisor, Baby C; sound (Dolby Digital), Tu Duu-chin; associate producers, I-ling Lin, Sam T.H. Yuan. Reviewed at AMC Studio 30, Houston, Aug. 5, 2012. Running time: 106 MIN.
Gwei Lun-mei, Joseph Chang, Rhydian Vaughan. (Mandarin, Taiwanese dialogue)