Released discreetly on Netflix at the end of 2020, this Taiwanese film deserves our attention. We follow the complicated love story between two high school students in the aftermath of major political changes in Taiwan.
What is it about ?
In 1987, after the end of martial law in Taiwan, Jia-han and Birdy fell in love despite the family pressure, homophobia and the prevailing social stigma.
Well worth a look ?
Simple and uncluttered drama, Your name in the heart tells a story that takes place in a Catholic high school for boys. We are in 1987; almost four decades of martial law have just ended. But the Taiwanese still remain, psychologically at least, under the yoke of a society padlocked by traumatic years of military domination.
Jia-han (Edward Chen), a soft-spoken young man much loved by his classmates, meets a new student looking for thrills. He nicknames him Birdy (Chin-Hua Tseng) in reference to Alan Parker’s film. The other students aren’t sure what to think about the new thing, but he and Jia-han immediately become friends.
Under the frank camaraderie, is born a growing intimacy made up of candid and tender gestures. It’s a nap in the train where one rests his head on the other’s shoulder. It is this body that clings to that of his accomplice during a scooter ride. Innocent moments while in these interstices, a love story is born.
But it is still impossible to love each other in broad daylight in Taiwan, at a time when gay students are beaten and harassed by their classmates and rejected by society. So when the school opens to young girls, Birdy approaches an outspoken girl. Which breaks Jia-han’s heart.
Between Call Me by Your Name and In the Mood for Love
We can not help but think of the love trio of Call Me by Your Name. When the young Marzia (Esther Garrel) comes to slow down the rapprochement between Oliver (Armie Hammer) and Elio (Timothée Chalamet). But here, the reactions are more lively. Jia-han’s pain is almost unbearable to him.
All in delicacy, the realization then lingers on the emotions and always retains the action of coming too suddenly. Director Patrick Kuang-Hui Liu applies himself, like a privileged observer, to filming the almost invisible manifestations of physical desire. He takes the time to create romance between his characters and leaves time for his actors to build an alchemy that becomes more and more believable.
At the same time that we are amazed at the beauty of Birdy and Jia-han, Liu gives them texture and scale. In the same way that Wong Kar-wai stretches time to better express desire in In the Mood for Love, the languor displayed in Your Name in the Heart only serves to flesh out the underlying narrative. The expression is in the position of the bodies, the inclination of the faces, the strength of the gaze more than in the dialogues. Even if they end up exulting from choking.
A personal story
Jia-han’s particular bow is based around “80%” on the experience of Patrick Kuang-Hui Liu, according to the director. “Originally my intention was not to make a gay movie, but to make a personal movie”, he said. “This is my first love, and my first love turned out to be the story of a boy loving another boy”, the director told Time magazine.
We really hope that, thanks to Netflix, LGBT communities in other parts of Asia will be able to see the film. LGBT communities need a movie like this to tell them, “You are allowed to love, you are not guilty.”
Production of the film began in 2018, before same-sex marriage legislation was enacted in Taiwan, which is the first country in Asia – and the only one to date – to legalize such unions in May 2019. Released at the end of September 2020 in theaters in Taiwan, Your Name in the Heart became the biggest Taiwanese hit of 2020 and most viewed LGBT + movie of Taiwanese history.