Runtime: 85 minutes
Director/Writer: Yee Chih-Yen
Stars: Guey Lun-Mei, Liang Shu-Hui, Chen Bo-Lin
By Mique Watson
“Blue Gate Crossing” is a film as placid as a billowing cloud; you see it, and it leaves just as soon as it comes. Lighthearted, yet effective, writer-director Yee Chih-Yen (this is his sophomore film); ensures that the film’s strength lies in its simplicity. The setup is standard; boy meets girl, boy’s raging hormones make girl irresistible–in spite of her repeated rebukes. However, the depth comes from an interesting reversal of expectations; what might this reversal be? The aforementioned girl has her hearts set on someone else–another girl.
Our trio of naïve, virginal, and confused lovers are students in a high school in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei. Meng Kerou (Guey Lun-Mei) and Lin Yuezhen (Liang Shu-Hui) are the best of friends–Yuezhen has their sights set on Zhang Shihao (Chen Bo-Lin), resident cool-kid on the swim team. She’s quite unhealthily obsessed–unbeknownst to him, she picks up his trash and keeps it in a box, among other things. She’s head-over-heels for the guy, and drones on about her obsession and the impossibility of it all. This impossibility is exacerbated by how her childish naïveté leads her to enact a series of sloppy plans which inadvertently result in Shihao pursuing Kerou. Further complicating things, Shihao begins to develop a crush on Kerou.
“This beauty captured on screen serves as an apt, dreamlike backdrop of a time once lived.”
This is a film about the awkwardness of high school–it will inspire bouts of nostalgia. Moreover, it will remind you of just how lucky you are to have this phase of your life over (assuming you’re not still in high school!). The trio of young actors deliver performances so naturalistic one can only shudder at the cringe-worthy accuracy of it all. The way they portray young people trying to navigate this precarious time in life lends the picture an air of empathy and understanding. What could’ve been formulaic is, instead, inspired by a keen and sympathetic focus on the emotions and insecurities of each distinct character.
“This is a film about the awkwardness of high school–it will inspire bouts of nostalgia. Moreover, it will remind you of just how lucky you are to have this phase of your life over.”
Although I’ve never been to Taipei; my readings on this film indicate to me that cinematographer Hsiang Chienn makes the city look a lot cleaner than it actually is. He shoots the city in such a way that emphasizes its colours, the crisp mouth-watering quality of its street food, and the iridescent blueness of its water illuminated by the moon. This beauty captured on screen serves as an apt, dreamlike backdrop of a time once lived; a time many on this planet will eventually live–a time many have been glad to have left behind.
The high school itself is one where uniforms are mandated; day-to-day routines are so regulated that socializing normally takes a backseat to academics and extracurricular activities. The regimented nature of the lives of these three is slightly disrupted by the sudden adolescent anguish of the moment. Yuezhen fades into the background, as Kerou and Shihao ascend to the fore–Kerou eventually gives into his advances to dip her toes in the cold waters of heterosexuality, despite herself. Mixed signals and bad communication abound; the conflict is not particularly difficult to guess. There’s nothing particularly surprising in this film, fresh as it may be, but the end result is poignant nonetheless.