Your Name Engraved Herein

Movie review by
JK Sooja, Common Sense Media
Your Name Engraved Herein Movie Poster Image
Heartfelt but flawed coming-of-age romance has violence, sex
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 114 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Tender portrayal of a young gay romance between two students. Moments of standing up to bigotry and hate. Fighting against bullying behavior and bullying culture without signs of making progress. Be who you are meant to be and don't throw love away.

Positive Role Models

Despite facing fierce homophobia in 1987 Taiwan, Birdy freely expresses himself, even when peers chase, harass, assault, and bully him. He stands up for another student getting assaulted by a group of boys and saves him from certain further harm. Generally positive representations of how difficult it was to grow up gay.  

Violence

An openly gay student gets assaulted, stripped, whipped, and beaten. He almost has his groin and penis burned with a lighter, and is almost further beaten with a baseball bat before he's saved by another student. Bruises and cuts on the victim's face. Students chase and try to capture another student, lots of running, shoving, pushing, and scuffling. An older man sexually assaults a teen boy before being shoved away. A father publicly beats and shames his son in school. On a busy street, a man dressed in a white dress adorned with condoms and a sign that says, "homosexuality is not a sin," gets dragged away and presumably physically harmed by a group of angry men (the protester is a nod to real-life gay rights activist Chi Chia-Wei).

Sex

Teens run around half undressed in a graveyard at night. One girl is topless with one bare breast visible for a moment while she straddles a boy. Others are in underwear. Another girl takes a reluctant boy's hand and places it on her breast. Two teen boys shower together, and one pleasures the other with his hand to completion. A teen wakes up to find he has had a wet dream. No genitalia shown, but the suggestions of nude male teen bodies are shown in a shower, on the beach, and in a bed. Some romantic kissing. 

Language

Language includes "f--king," "s--t," and "queer" and "gay" used in derogatory fashions. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens and adults smoke cigarettes without commentary or consequences.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Your Name Engraved Herein is a Taiwanese film about two teen boys in boarding school struggling to navigate their developing sexualities and feelings for each other. Set in 1987 post-martial law Taiwan, this romance is about a young love that goes unrequited because of Taiwanese societal and cultural homophobia and antigay sentiment. Emotional and at times melodramatic, Your Name Engraved Herein features themes of learning to accept others and difference, discovery of self and sexuality, and fighting homophobia and bigotry. There's some violence, most notably an attempted hate crime stopped halfway through (the victim already suffering a beating, stripping, and whipping) before the culprits manage to burn the teen's groin with a lighter and beat him to a pulp with a baseball bat. An older man sexually assaults a teen boy before being forcefully shoved away. Two teen boys shower together, and one masturbates the other to completion (no genitalia shown). A teen girl's bare breast is seen briefly. Tender depictions of intimacy between two teen boys, some romantic kissing, holding, and cuddling. Strong language, mainly, "f--king," is used throughout, with antigay epithets, "queer" and "gay," also often heard. Teens and adults smoke, with no commentary or consequences. 

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What's the story?

In YOUR NAME ENGRAVED HEREIN, two teen boys fall for one another during their last year at boarding school. Unable to fully express or enjoy their blossoming love, they must navigate constant threats of physical and emotional violence, assault, and public shaming. Thirty years later, at a funeral for one of their old teachers, they reunite. Will they still share a connection? Will they have answers for each other about their shared histories?

Is it any good?

This tender romance too often falls into melodrama, but still manages to move the heart. In many ways Your Named Engraved Herein is a decent introduction to queer teen romance despite the film's tendency to veer into preachy moments. The two leads are excellent portraying their coming-of-age gay identities and their developing love for each other. They share confused sexual encounters, stolen looks and glances across classrooms and band practice, intimate trips to the sea, and moments of genuine love. Wang Po-te (Tseng Ching-hua), or Birdy, is a force throughout the film and his more serious and gloomier counterpart in Jia-han (Edward Chen) grounds Birdy's absurdity with a solid gravity and appreciation for his friend and would-be lover's wild nature.

Unfortunately, there are a few issues. The film meanders in the middle and ends poorly and is wholly unsatisfying. Mostly, though, Your Name Engraved Herein just gets melodramatic, often defending the existence of gay boys or homosexuality generally, as if it feels it has to first establish this fact before representing gay love. This heavy-handedness could be taken as part of the development of Taiwanese cinema, but it also could be simply be an antiquated representation of oppression and how to resist it, depending on who you are. Many scenes end up in overly dramatic dialogue, like when Jia-han wonders through tears, "Is my love not the same?" or like when Birdy's ex-wife decisively proclaims that, "liking boys is innate." Additionally, a lot of the drama involves physical assault, sexual assault, psychological shaming, bullying behavior, hate crimes, arguing, yelling, crying, shoving and pushing, running from threats and even ghosting. Not a lot of happy scenes. Positive scenes of queer intimacy do happen, but they're almost always cut short and fleeting. There may be a metaphorical explanation for this, but the pacing and plotting of the film still suffer for it. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Your Name Engraved Herein portrays post-martial law Taiwan and Taiwanese culture. Do you think the risks of being openly gay at that time were handled well? What was missing? What was there too much of? What else might the film have shown to deepen queer representation, even in a period piece (late 80s) such as this? 

  • How do you feel the film handles the two lovers' constant threat of being assaulted or harmed? Why do you feel they spend so much time running and fighting? What else could the film have shown them doing instead?

  • Were there enough positive representations of queerness and/or gay love? Why might some audience desire more? Why might some audiences desire less?

  • Do you feel satisfied by the final third of the film? By the end? Why or why not?

Movie details

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