From The New York Asian Film Festival ’17: Our Review of ‘Eternal Summer’

From The New York Asian Film Festival ’17: Our Review of ‘Eternal Summer’

Queer cinema gets representation in this year’s New York Asian Film Festival. That’s because of this retrospective screening of Leste Chen’s Eternal Summer. And this belongs to both the ‘coming out’ and the ‘romance’ brackets of queer cinema. Jonathan (Bryant Chang) spends most of his time preparing for university entrance exams. His lifelong best friend Shane (Joseph Chang Hsiao-chuan), however, is more of a troublemaker. Then another student Carrie (Kate Yeung), comes back to their unnamed northern small town from Taipei. Jonathan, attracted to outsiders, befriends Carrie but the latter ends up trying to romance both boys without knowing their secrets.

Most stories about young love come off as frivolous on screen, highlighting the entitled side of the characters. The film veers close to that, with Jonathan acting mopey when he discovers Shane and Carrie’s relationship. But the actors understated performances pull those tendencies back. Leste Chen also structures the film through one big flashback. It starts with an adult voice for Jonathan looking back at the three of them. Beginning the film like this provides distance and perspective to the story. It also helps that the soundtrack that, yes, sounds like it’s from a soap, but adds gentleness to the film.

I understand the psychological blocks involving coming out, even while living in a progressive society. And that might be why Jonathan drags his feet before telling Shane how he feels. But the film waited long for that last minute reveal. It feels as if Chen can’t find anything else interesting about these characters other than their sexuality. The film’s worldview also seems too closed. Like there was nothing outside the main characters and their romances or their extracurricular activities. It’s sad to say this but the film could have been much worse. It’s an inoffensive queer film.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you’re working.