By Lai Kun-yu

“Girlfriend, Boyfriend” (also known as GF*BF) is a beautiful film that discusses love, democracy and idealism. The story crosses more than 30 years, and successfully depicts the changes of characters. Furthermore, it recreates one of the most important historical event in Taiwan, making new generation know more about this island.

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The story begins with Liam, Mabel and Arron’s high school years, in 1985. At that time, Taiwan was under martial law for more than 35 years, and people were not allowed to disagree with  the government. However, the young rebel souls like the main protagonists cannot endure oppression anymore. So they start to act against military instructors, who supervise students’ thought in school. Through a series of rebelling activities, these three teenagers realize they fall in love with each other.

In 1990, the year the three main characters are studying in college, one of the most remarkable student movement happened in Taiwan – Wild Lily student movement. Thousands of students sat in Memorial Square, demanding from the government to change the election form and be more democratic. Aaron becomes Mabel’s boyfriend, and leads the movement at the same time. Liam is secretly dating  someone else. Each of them seems to be happy, because they all have someone to love. And this society also has a brighter future.

But there is a problem: they are not naïve teenagers anymore. Even though they still have ideals, they are not the same guys anymore. Arron starts to cheat Mabel with other girls, and she tries to ignore the truth. Liam, who stands between them, feels uncomfortable about the situation. Their close relationship becomes like a rope around their necks, making them suffer, as they realize the dark side of each other.

Their love is transformed into a wound that can’t be healed. In 1997, these three characters meet again, but there is a huge gap between their souls. Their idealist spirits have already crumbled. Their broken heart forces them to face each other with honesty, which leads to the final climax, which is so tragic and emotional.

Ya-che Yang utilizes different ways to let viewers focus on the issues he wants to discuss. First, he uses an event secretly founded by students in a girl senior high school in 2012 (It is also a true event) to excite the audience’s curiosity. Then, he reverses time to 1985, which is the time the main characters are also in high schools. For many people in Taiwan, school days are the most memorable time they have ever enjoyed. Nostalgia triggers audience’s emotion, making them caught in the story.

Nostalgia also allows people to revisit the era that is so crucial for Taiwanese. Young people step into politics with dream and passion, and all of them can smell the exciting better future through the atmosphere. In other words, this is a love letter to those young souls.

However, it is a eulogy for idealism too. The cracking relationship between Aaron, Mabel and Liam is not just a tragic romance, but it is also a metaphor about young people at that time. The reality transforms the naïve students into someone they don’t know. It reflects how the director perceives the people in his generation.

Ya-che Yang ‘s amazing storytelling ability makes this film unforgettable. The plot of the movie is filled with love and loss, which makes people connect the story with their actual lives. Everyone has the same sentiments about having a great time with friends and trying to live their lives. But most important of all, we’ve all experienced a heart breaking love. Ya-che Yang captures the joy and the pain of love with a beautiful story.

Combining the triangle relationship with one of the most important events in Taiwan history, “Girlfriend, Boyfriend” is an excellent film that balances history and personal sentiments very well. It is very difficult for a filmmaker to achieve that. Even though there is too much emotion in some scenes, it is still a classic work about changing Taiwanese society.