The love story in the touching, simple Taiwanese drama “Your Name Engraved Herein” unfolds at a Catholic high school for boys. It’s 1987, shortly after the end of nearly four decades of martial law, but before the easing of social repression.
While the soft-spoken Jia-Han (Edward Chen) is well-liked among his classmates, they don’t quite know what to make of the thrill-seeking new student, Birdy (Jing-Hua Tseng). But the two bond immediately, their schoolboy camaraderie providing cover for their growing intimacy. Heads rest on shoulders during train rides, bodies cling to each other on the back of a scooter.
But consummation is a risk in an environment where gay students are beaten and bullied. When the school begins admitting women, Birdy takes up with an outspoken girl and Jia-Han struggles to hide his broken heart.
The director, Patrick Liu, has an eye for the way that physical desire manifests itself: the gestures of affection, the postures of people pretending not to acknowledge each other. He doesn’t rush the romance between the boys, and his patience allows the actors to develop believable chemistry. Though the movie could coast on the appeal of handsome faces and stolen trips to Taipei, Liu gives texture to their pretty pining.
Lingering too long in the hot air that remains after deep sighs can feel suffocating, however. And “Your Name Engraved Herein” is so wrapped up in the gravitational pull between Jia-Han and Birdy that the details of the boys’ school, their families and the political circumstances surrounding them pass by in a blur. Liu focuses on evoking the swooning myopia of first love, which leaves the world beyond Jia-Han and Birdy mistily indistinct.
Your Name Engraved Herein
Not rated. In Mandarin, English and Min Nan, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes. Watch on Netflix.