Ya-che Yang’s Girlfriend Boyfriend is a celebration of (and cautionary tale about) personal and political freedom. Taiwanese schoolmates Mabel (Lun Mei Gwei) and Aaron (Rhydian Vaughan) are heterosexual, Liam (Joseph Hsiao-chuan Chang) is not, and each of them spends the 27 years of the film pining for the wrong person. What lifts it above a standard rom-com triangle is the backdrop of their home, Taiwan, which is still under martial law at the beginning of the film in 1987—“planning to rebel” is a punishable offense, and gayness is among the many things that might get one snitched on to the ideological police. As Mabel, Aaron, and Liam try to figure out how they can be with who they want to be with without actually saying it outright (which is not an option for Liam at all in the 1980s), they participate in social protests at school and beyond, while fighting for the right to control their own destinies. Over the years, Taiwan evolves into a country that isn’t entirely certain what to do with the freedoms it wins, and both the friends and their country learn that liberty does not necessarily guarantee the ability to communicate properly or to find the kind of love you want. But it still beats the alternative. Sherilyn Connelly
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