The highest-grossing LGBTQ+ movie in Taiwan gives audiences an emotionally charged experience
Directed by Kuang-Hui Liu, Your Name Engraved Herein is a coming of age movie that tells the story of two classmates, A-han (Edward Chen) and Birdy (Tseng Jing-Hua), who fall in love precisely when the martial law is lifted in Taiwan in 1987. Despite this, society doesn’t change overnight, and homophobia, family pressure, and social stigmas remain present.
It’s intimate and sensual, but heartbreaking at the same time.
The martial law lasted in Taiwan for 38 years, from 1949 to 1987. This period of time is known as the White Terror, when the Republic of China took control of Taiwan. Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), decided to impose a martial law, a temporary imposition of military authority and control of civilian rule, on Taiwan to prevent the Communist Party, led by Mao Tse-tung, from winning the Civil War. Freedom of speech and human rights were declined. Civilians who opposed it would either be imprisoned, tortured or even executed.
In the film, Birdy is a new student at a strict all-boys Catholic high school that A-han attends. The two rapidly become friends and their bond grows stronger.
They take part in the school’s band, led by Father Olivier (Fabio Grangeon) from Montreal, who is also the school’s priest. Father Olivier always reminds his students, “Profiter du moment” (live in the moment). During one of their classes, he discusses the concept of youth and love with his students. While everyone is questioning the priest about his love life, A-han and Birdy glimpse at each other.
News of President Chiang Ching-kuo’s death surfaces at school. Students are encouraged to take a trip to Taipei to pay their respects to the deceased. In Taipei, A-han and Birdy take advantage of their stay in the capital to enjoy their time together. Still, they are resistant to their mutual affection.
The arrival of girls shifts the school’s dynamic. Birdy is noticed by Ban-Ban, who represents social acceptance, stability and heterosexual romance. A-han gets jealous as Birdy spends more time with Ban-Ban and A-han won’t let go of his affection towards Birdy. A series of confrontations and reconciliations follow as they part from each other. Finally, life brings them together a few years later, giving them an opportunity to reflect on their past.
Director Liu captures a period of time when many people suffered from discrimination due to social stigma, even after the removal of the martial law. Gradually, society was able to evolve as Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2019.
The movie pays a tribute to known Taiwanese LGBTQ+ activist, Chi Chia-wei, who was imprisoned during the White Terror. The activist appears in one scene of the movie, where a protest is happening, holding a sign that says “Homosexuality is not a disease.”
At times, it is hard to watch since the story is beautiful, but also heartbreaking. In a particular scene, Birdy is injured in a scooter accident and A-han decides to help him shower. A-han and Birdy get intimate. When Birdy climaxes, he kisses A-han but rapidly apologizes. Then, both cry in each other’s arms, understanding each other’s pain, shame and love.
The title of the movie is in reference to the song “Your Name Engraved Herein” written by Hsu Yuan-Ting, Chia Wang and Chen Wen-Hua, and performed by Crowd Lu. In the film, A-han plays the song on the phone to confess his love to Birdy. By the end of this scene, both start sobbing as they listen carefully to the song, heartbroken.
In a Time interview, Liu mentioned that “The LGBT communities need a movie like this to tell them, ‘You are allowed to love, you are not guilty.’”
The movie sheds light on those who have lived in pain and frustration due to past trauma.
Although the film depicts a generation that was denied to celebrate their identities freely and are recognized in Taiwan today, it still demonstrates that the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is not over.
Your Name Engraved Herein sends a clear universal message that, regardless of sexual orientation, love is love and everyone deserves it.
Your Name Engraved Herein is available to watch on Netflix.