June is Pride month, and this year I’ve been making a concerted effort to seek out LGBTQ stories and artworks from around the world. This Taiwanese film has been in my Netflix queue since it was released late last year, so I decided to make it my most recent movie night. And now, it’s all I can think about. Your Name Engraved Herein is easily one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen all year. It’s also a window into a history I know nothing about, but one which I now want to know more.
The film tells the story of A-han and Birdy, two students at an all boys Catholic high school in Taiwan. The year is 1987, and Taiwan is just coming out of 38 years under martial law. It is a time of great transition, for both the country and for A-han and Birdy, who slowly fall in love over the course of the film. It is not an easy love, and due to social pressures and taboos, they can never actually be in a relationship. But it is beautiful to watch nonetheless. Beautiful and heartbreaking.
One thing I particularly loved about this movie was the contrasting flow of the boys’ character arcs. Coming of age stories like this tend to cast one character as the more confident and self-assured one. They are comfortable in their identity, and often act as a guide/role model for the other one, who is usually still trying to figure things out. Your Name Engraved Herein starts out along this path, with Birdy being the more confident and self-possessed character. But when a new school year starts and their school becomes co-ed, the promise of a more socially acceptable path proves to be irresistible. Birdy begins to turn away from his feelings just as A-han begins to lean into his, setting them both on a collision course of emotion and heartbreak.
I feel like I could go on and on about the beauty of this movie. There are so many things that are so well done, but what I appreciated the most was its honesty. This is a film that has a lot of big things to say about the importance of letting people love who they love openly and freely. But it doesn’t do so by lecturing its audience. Instead, it simply tells the story of two young men who fall in love. In a perfect world, that would be the end of the story, but we all know that this is rarely the case. And the beauty of Your Name Engraved Herein is that it doesn’t just show the negative impact on A-han and Birdy’s lives. It shows how not letting people lead their most authentic lives has devastating consequences for everyone around them as well.
Your Name Engraved Herein is a beautiful film, but it’s not exactly a happy film. But for once, real life has provided a happy ending of sorts. In terms of LGBTQ rights, Taiwan has gone on to become one of the most progressive countries in Asia. In 2019, Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage, and it’s known as being one of the most LGBTQ-friendly places in the world. I know A-han and Birdy are fictional characters, but I can’t help but hope that they are out there today, living their best life, together.
Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!