Your Name Engraved Herein review – an emotionally charged film

December 23, 2020 (Last updated: last month)
M.N. Miller 0
Film, Film Reviews, Netflix


Your Name Engraved Herein has two performances, one electric and the other a slow burn, that complement each other in an emotionally charged film.

Taiwan’s martial law ended in 1987, but that doesn’t mean people’s hearts and minds changed with it. The move towards political oppression lasted nearly 40 years. Finally, the Chinese influence was replaced by Taiwanese culture and values that had been held at bay for too long. While Taiwan had their first legal gay marriage in 2019 and homosexuality was never officially a crime, that doesn’t mean the new democratic society treated everyone with the same fundamental rights. Kuang-Hui Liu’s (22nd Catch) latest, Your Name Engraved Herein, is a coming of age film about that period. A country that was in transition from their oppressors and was doing the same to their at-risk youth.

Your Name Engraved Herein is the highest-grossing LGBTQ film in the history of Taiwan. Yu Ning Chu’s (Back to the Good Time) screenplay takes a coming of age tale and applies it to gay rights during a time of political unrest. Two boarding school classmates have an immediate attraction to each other. One, A-Han (Red Balloon’s Edward Chen) is a fairly popular student whose grades are suffering even though there are no girls to distract him in an all-boys school. Even if A-Han is part of a troupe of trumpet playing bad-asses impressing girls across the way (I don’t know about you, but my trumpet playing didn’t impress girls in high school), he can’t bring himself to fool around with any of them.

A new classmate, Birdy (an electric Tseng Jing-Hua), is a wild card. Birdy openly opposes authority, the only difference now he has the rights on his side. Most of his classmates know he is gay, so do his teachers, but he is still bullied all the same, viscously even, but still stands up for others like him, including a gay classmate who is having his genitals burned with a lighter. Soon, the chemistry between them is too much to bear.

Herein is part of a new wave of Taiwanese cinema over the past few years. Taiwan’s new millennium films incorporate national pride and modern forms of entertainment and global issues. The film is richly detailed and is a visual feast. There are haunting images of despair and luminous, visually evocative pictures, like when both are lying naked on a beach together, their bodies gently dusted with sand. Those performances, particularly, Tseng Jing-Hua’s Birdy, the film’s breakout character, have the film’s best scene. Birdy standing on the second-floor ledge, defying his tormentors, is viscerally felt, as he attempts the flight below. Chen is also good here, in a nuanced and quieter role, that’s like a slow burn over its 152 minutes.

The film does have its faults, including the run time. The film could have cut a good 20 minutes off the top. However, the biggest issue I have with the film is how heavy-handed almost every scene tries to be. Nothing is understated and most scenes are overwrought with emotion that leave them feeling too similar. These big moments should be leading to a big, emotional payoff, but happen so often they tend to drown each other out. Even the music by Chris Hou and Jason Huang, the horn playing in particular, has no sense of the subtle.

Calling Your Name Engraved Herein the Taiwanese Moonlight would be short-sighted and shortchanging both films. This is a stand-alone work that is deftly culturally relevant considering Taiwan’s status as the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage. It is also a personal work, with director Liu drawing on his own experiences and placing them during that time of the ever-changing Taiwanese landscape. It’s an effective, emotionally charged experience that leaves its mark.

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