Directed by Kuang-Hui Liu, the 2020 Taiwanese film ‘Your Name Engraved Herein’ takes you back to 1987, when a martial law has just been lifted in the country, but that doesn’t mean a change in the toxic masculinity that permeates the society. In the very first scene, we see a bleeding teen asking a priest how he plans to counsel him while a dramatic trumpet music flourishes in the background.
The story then unfolds in flashbacks, where we see the blossoming friendship between two school-boys Jia Han (a dashing Edward Chen) and Birdy (Jing-Hua Tseng) growing into something more. But they are surrounded by homophobic classmates who do not bat an eyelid before beating gay peers to pulp.
The colors and ambiance of the film is very artistically done and a nostalgic jazz era kind of music adds a layer of depth to the confusing feelings the two teen protagonists undergo. However, the pace might test the patience of viewers who look for gritty story-telling. “Your Name Engrave Herein” is slow, but the kinds that some viewers might savour as they watch the leads battle their emotions. The story itself is quite standard territory, however director Kuang-Hui Liu tenderly captures the despair of youth in some memorable scenes.
What really works for this film is the fact that the two lead actors are very good looking and are able to slip into their roles effortlessly. Let’s face it – aesthetics matter. Had these two actors not been as charming, this movie would have crumbled like a pile of cards sitting on the seaside.
Towards the climax, the film fast-forwards to the present, perhaps 2018 or 19, where the two men meet for the first time in 30 years and we get an open-ended close to their story. “Who knew the future would’ve been like this” one of them exclaims, referring to the rights the LGBT community enjoys in their present world. The director however is not able to bring out the stark contrast between a homophobic restrained era of the 80s and a more sexually liberated 21st century.
Despite the flaws, ‘Your Name Engraved Herein’ has its emotional high-points and despite a dragged out climax, it’s worth a watch for the earnest performances and efforts by the entire team of the film. It’s a 7.5/10 for me.