Rating: 3 stars
The stars: Gwei Lun-mei, Joseph Chang, Rhydian Vaughan
The story: Mabel, Liam and Aaron are close friends from the same village in Taiwan. As Taiwan undergoes great political change, the three also find their relationship evolving over the decades.
The buzz: This Taiwanese film has scored big at both Taiwanese and Hong Kong box office.
insing.com says: A coming-of-age film set against the backdrop of Taiwan in the '80s and '90s, ‘GF*BF’ tracks the complex relationship between three friends, Mabel (Gwei), Liam (Chang, ‘Au Revoir Taipei’) and Aaron (Vaughan, ‘Monga’)). They enter and exit each other's lives, even as the country undergoes tumultuous change. A love triangle develops; Mabel loves the stoic Liam, while Liam has a crush on Aaron. In turn, Aaron loves Mabel. When Aaron seems clueless to Liam's overtures, while Mabel realises Liam's preferences, Aaron and Mabel hook up.
Though the three main characters look a little old for the high school segments, this Taiwanese film has big emotional moments that would strike a chord with those familiar with the country. The middle portion, where the three take part in protests at university, is the most fully formed and convincing, and it's the last segment, set in the late '90s, where the film flounders and, like some middle-aged person unsatisfied with life, turns moody.
Still, Gwen Lun-mei's performance is noteworthy, changing from a tomboyish firebrand to an unhappy mistress. Vaughan is a distraction, as the western-looking actor's presence in Taiwan is never fully explained. Chang is stuck looking forlorn for most of the movie.
Director Yang Ya-che (‘Orz Boyz’) has managed to steer the film away from too much sentimentality, and even though it bears a striking resemblance to Taiwanese films ‘Eternal Summer’ and ‘Apple of My Eye’, ‘GF*BF’ does manage to stand on its own and capture a country and its people undergoing change.