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Originally published Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 3:01 PM

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'Girlfriend Boyfriend' tracks social change in Taiwan

"Girlfriend Boyfriend," a film from Taiwan directed by Ya-che Yang and starring Lun Mei Gwei, Joseph Hsiao-Chuan Chang and Rhydian Vaughan, is an agreeable if low-key romantic drama that follows three friends across two decades of social change. It is playing at Seattle's Pacific Place.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2.5 stars

'Girlfriend Boyfriend,' with Lun Mei Gwei, Joseph Hsiao-Chuan Chang, Rhydian Vaughan. Written and directed by Ya-che Yang. 105 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. In Mandarin and Taiwanese, with English subtitles. Pacific Place.

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An agreeable if low-key romantic drama, writer/director Ya-che Yang's "Girlfriend Boyfriend" follows three friends across two decades of social change in Taiwan. Mabel (Lun Mei Gwei), Liam (Joseph Hsiao-Chuan Chang) and Aaron (Rhydian Vaughan) are from a small town in the south part of Taiwan, a country under martial law in 1985 as the movie begins. They are rebels at school together — staging protests, publishing subversive content in the school magazine, encouraging other students to revolt. Five years pass, and we meet the trio as young adults in the big city of Taipei, involved in the Wild Lily protest movement while forming a romantic triangle.

Mabel, as we saw in their teen years, loves Liam, who's nurtured a secret and then-forbidden love for Aaron — who, as these things usually work, only has eyes for Mabel. She initially resists Aaron, but time brings change.

By 1997, time has changed other things, too: We see a raucous gay wedding, and a sense of quiet resignation among the three characters. They realize, by the end of the film, that their time together as young people was meaningful — that each, in the others, finds a sense of home.

The film, in turn, is most vivid in its early years, as we see the students bursting with energy and promise. "You are all expelled! Do not dance!" shouts a school official, but they can't stop themselves; writhing wildly to pop music as copies of the school magazine fly through the air. It's a revolution in their country, and one in their hearts — and they simply have to dance.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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