In May of this year, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. It took two years to pass this law after the country’s Constitutional Court ruled that the previously existing marriage law — which defined marriage as the union solely between a man and a woman — was unconstitutional.
Under this new law, LGBTQ+ couples can officially register for marriage licenses in the courthouses. It was enacted on May 24, 2019, and numerous people were seen gathered outside of courthouses celebrating in the aftermath.
The island country contains Asia’s most prominent LGBTQ+ community. It is considered one of the more progressive countries in the continent. Taipei, the country’s capital, hosts the largest annual pride parade in Asia and has been fighting for LGBTQ+ rights for many years. In addition, this new referendum also creates more opportunities for changes in LGBTQ+ representation in the entertainment industry.
Directed by Patrick Liu and Chu Yu-ning, “Your Name Engraved Herein” is a romantic drama between two male best friends, and a look into how society changes throughout the decades. Due to the conservative times, the two friends are unable to express their true feelings for each other. The film stars Edward Chen and Zeng Jinglian as the main characters. The production team has completed their filming in Taiwan and is currently filming abroad in Canada. According to Yahoo Taiwan, the movie is predicted to complete filming at the end of June.
The first act of story is set in 1987, beginning with the protagonists meeting and befriending each other in high school. One of them decides to reveal his true sexual identity to his ultra-religious father while the other chooses to bury his feelings and live a supposedly normal life.
The two friends meet again 20 years later, this time in Canada, where love has much more freedom. According to director Chu, “Your Name Engraved Herein” is influenced from real life events; the title of the film was inspired from a poem written by John Donne, which explains that the power of love transcends all names and labels.
While Taiwan is known for its progressive ideologies and high-quality entertainment industry, LGBTQ+ characters and narratives are still lacking in films and television. The idea of writing a story that focuses on a gay couple, like “Your Name Engraved Herein,” is still relatively new. However, with the new reform and this upcoming film, the Taiwanese entertainment industry is challenging this outdated standard and opening up more doors for LGBTQ+ narratives to appear on the big screen.
Even though the movie is still in production, it has already garnered a lot of domestic and international media attention. Unlike other movies with LGBTQ+ characters, “Your Name Engraved Herein” not only normalizes LGBTQ+ presence on the screen but also portrays the history and honest reality for many members of the community. Yes, it is a fictional romance story, but it has a much bigger purpose.
What makes “Your Name Engraved Herein” unlike other stories is its unhappily-ever-after ending, where the main characters don’t end up together. One of them comes out and accepts his sexuality, while the other buries his true identity, marries a wife and participates in a so-called “normal” lifestyle. The film’s story displays the changing times in LGBTQ+ rights throughout the last 20 years, reminding the audience of the difficult past.
The unhappy ending portrays the complicated reality of the past. Many gay men decided to choose this life of secrecy while living under a majority conservative population rather than coming out of the closet. This is an important aspect of LGBTQ+ history to include because it unmasks the unhappiness and struggles that many people have faced during those times.
By presenting this sacrifice, the movie avoids romanticizing the idea that love for homosexual couples is just as easy as it is for heterosexual couples. This raw depiction is what makes this film such a courageous and unique love story.
A false image of gay romance is something to which Hollywood and American entertainment still falls victim. Although Western culture and media are one of the most accepting places for LGBTQ+ characters in films, they are still lacking stories where the main characters or couples are gay without overly-romanticizing their relationship. They lack realism and depth.
The most recent popular Hollywood movie that centers around an LGBTQ+ experience that I can think of is the 2018 teen romantic comedy “Love, Simon.” Based on the 2015 Young Adult novel “Simon vs. Homo Sapiens Agenda“, this coming of age story talks about a boy named Simon Spier who struggles to announce his sexuality to his family and friends. He eventually confides his troubles and secrets to the only other gay student at his school, who stays anonymous throughout the entire film and eventually becomes his love interest.
While both “Love, Simon” and “Your Name Engraved Herein” are fictional, the upcoming Taiwanese movie takes on a more heart-wrenching storyline in order to accurately inform its audience of the changing times in LGBTQ+ history.
In Variety Magazine, director Liu talks about message of the movie for the Asian LGBTQ+ community moving forward. “This symbolic film,” he says, “invites those in the dark to come out and those already in the sunshine to celebrate this loud revolution.”