Blue Gate Crossing

2003, Movie, NR, 85 mins


Slight but affecting, this Taiwanese coming-of-age drama revolves around teenagers caught in an awkward romantic triangle. Middle-class 17-year-olds Lin Yuezhen (Lian Shu-Hei) and Meng Kerou (Guey Lun-Mei), students at Fi-Jong High School, are best friends. Yuezhen, the prettier and flightier of the two, dreams of marrying Zhang Shihao (Chen Bo-Lin), a handsome, popular boy on the school swim team. But having dreamed of him for so long, she's afraid to approach him. So the tomboyish Kerou acts as a go-between, approaching Shihao when he's taking a surreptitious after-hours dip in the school pool. Shihao suspects that there is no Yuezhen and it's Kerou herself who has a crush on him, especially since Yuezhen isn't outside when he and Kerou leave the gym. This impression is strengthened when Yuezhen writes Shihao a mash note and asks Kerou to deliver it, neglecting to tell her friend that — in a last minute fit of panic — she signed Kerou's name instead of her own. Shihao asks Kerou out on a date and persists until she reluctantly agrees. Surprisingly, the normally reticent Kerou makes the first move, asking Shihao if he wants to kiss her. Equally surprisingly, he turns out to be shy and nervous about her offer. Kerou's subsequent behavior baffles the straightforward Shihao: One minute she's boldly holding his hand between classes, a serious breach of school decorum, the next she's avoiding him. Finally, they exchange secrets: Shihao's confession that he's only on the swim team because it's cool doesn't cut it, Kerou decrees, nor does his admission that he's still a virgin. Only after Shihao confides that he urinates oddly does she share her secret: She's pretty sure she's a lesbian, and only went out with him to see if kissing a boy would clarify her feelings. The stage is set for heartbreak all around, because no matter how hard Kerou tries to get Shihao to transfer his affections to Yuezhen, he still wants her. Writer-director Chih-Yen Yee's sweetly naive characters navigate the turbulent waters of sexual confusion with a mix of innocence and blase acceptance. "Worst excuse I've ever heard for dumping someone!" Shihao declares when Kerou admits her same-sex leanings, and the combination of bravado and faux sophistication is poignant without seeming sentimental or silly. However unfamiliar the setting, the emotional traumas of adolescence remain the same; Yee's unaffected cast brings them to vivid, yet subtle, life. (In Mandarin, with English subtitles.) leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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