Blue Gate Crossing (2002) ☆☆☆(3/4): A little complicated adolescent triangle

Taiwanese film “Blue Gate Crossing”, which happened to be released in South Korean theaters yesterday, is a modest adolescent drama revolving around one little complicated triangle. Although it is a bit too short with some underdeveloped aspects, the movie is still fairly engaging thanks to its good mood and solid performances, and it is certainly interesting to watch considering that it launched the career of one of the most prominent actresses in Taiwan during last two decades.

At first, the movie focuses on the friendship between Lin Yuezhen (Yolin Liang) and Meng Kerou (Gwei Lun-mei), two high school girls who have been quite close to each other. In the opening scene where they happen to have a little private time together, Yuezhen is trying to imagine her future life with a boy she has had a crush on, and Kerou listens to every word from her friend with quiet seriousness, though she does not try to imagine anything about whom she wants to be with in the future.

That boy in question is Zhang Shihao (Chen Bolin), a handsome athlete student in the school where Yuezhen and Kerou have studied. As they look at this hunky boy from time to time, Yuezhen cannot help but thrilled by the possibility of romance with him, and we are not so surprised to learn later that her mind has actually been quite fixated on winning Shihao’s affection for a while. At one point, she shows Kerou a box full of collected stuffs once belonging to Shihao, and she and Kerou come to bond more together as cheerfully sharing that little secret of hers between them.

In the end, Yuezhen asks Kerou to function as a messenger of love between her and Shihao. During one night, they sneak into the school swimming pool where Shihao often practices without permission, and they watch him practicing alone in the pool for a while. Kerou subsequently draws his attention on Yuezhen’s behalf, but then Yuezhen is disappeared in the last minute, and that leads to her rather awkward encounter with Shihao, who actually becomes smitten with Kerou as coming to spend more time with her than expected.

Kerou is not particularly interested in getting involved more with Shihao, but she keeps helping her friend nonetheless, though that results in more complications to her annoyance. Yuezhen later writes a love letter to Shihao, but she uses her friend’s name instead, and, after one embarrassing incident associated with that love letter of hers, everyone in the school regards Shihao and Kerou as a couple.

Because of his growing affection toward Kerou, Shihao does not mind this trouble at all, and he tries to get closer to her, but then it turns out that Kerou has a little secret behind her back. As a matter of fact, she has felt quite attracted to Yuezhen. While not so sure about her sexuality, she is afraid that her hidden feeling toward Yuezhen may destroy their friendship, and, ironically, she finds herself being more with Shihao as he kindly listens to her growing inner conflict.

As leisurely rolling along with its three main characters, director/writer Yee Chin-yen’s screenplay plainly but sensitively depicts the development of their complicated triangle. Just for checking whether she can like other men besides Shihao, Kerou unwisely attempts to seduce her physical education teacher when they happen to come across each other during one evening, and then she has no choice but to stick to Shihao just for saving her face at the school. More attracted to Kerou’s plucky personality, Shihao is willing to try to win her heart, but, of course, he only finds himself getting more frustrated with her ongoing sexual confusion. In case of Yuezhen, she is still waiting for getting Shihao’s attention while being jealous of whatever is going on between him and her best friend, and there is a little poignant moment where she does a sort of private prayer for her wish fulfillment.

Although it does not go that deep into Kerou’s sexual conflict or its consequent effect on her friendship with Yuezhen, the movie does not push its three main characters into contrived melodrama at least, and they simply come to us as innocent kids who still need to learn and grow up more. The ending feels a bit unresolved as mostly focusing on what eventually happens between Kerou and Shihao, but it still works with a bright and hopeful sense of optimism the movie rightfully earns along the story, and we come to hope that things will get better for not only Kerou and Shihao but also Yuezhen.

The movie is supported well by its three good main cast members. While Gwei Lun-mei, who has steadily advanced further since making her debut here in this film, shines with her unadorned star quality, Chen Bolin complements her well during several key scenes of theirs, and Yolin Liang is also effective as another crucial part of the story, though her character is rather underdeveloped in comparison.

While remembered mainly for Gwei’s debut performance, “Blue Gate Crossing” is worthwhile to watch because of several other good reasons including its youthful spirit coupled with palpable summer atmosphere. It is more or less than a time capsule from its era (Gwei’s subsequent queer drama film “Girlfriend Boyfriend” (2012) is relatively more forthright compared to that, by the way), but its plain intimate drama still has some charm and vigor, and I admire that to some degree.

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