"Your Name Engraved Herein" is an excellent Taiwanese film, but more intense than I expected. The intensity makes sense for a story about identity and first love set against the backdrop of political changes and the excellent acting helps carry the story. The characters are allowed to be complex and change in unexpected ways.
The main character Chang Jia-han, also referred to as A-han, (Edward Chen) has an intense homoerotic friendship that clearly crosses the line from best friends to boyfriends with his fellow student Wang Po Te (Jing-Hua Tseng), usually referred to as Birdy. Birdy is more social and outgoing. He seems aware of his feelings for A-han, but his desire for acceptance and ability to pass as straight lead him to give into the pressure to have a girlfriend and be "acceptable". A-han is more reflective and contained, Chen did some brilliant non-verbal acting, but often chooses not to pass as straight even when the school goes co-ed and the band teacher allows both boys and girls to be in the same class.
Stories set in schools often have the "inspirational teacher" and Father Oliver (Fabio Grangeon), the band instructor fills that role. At first I was concerned he might fall into a white savior role, but his role is quite complex and his backstory explains his sometimes contradictory attitudes and advise to A-han. I appreciated that the film didn't make their relationship sexual, but more of an adult helping a student with whom he had a lot in common with as a young man.
The film spends a surprising amount of time allowing A-han's and Birdy's relationship to grow and for them to be mostly happy together before the drama between them begins. When the drama begins it because intense with violence coming both from those around them and between them. It is clear to the audience why it isn't safe for them to be together or be honest. At first his girlfriend Wu Ruo-fei, usually referred to as Ban-Ban (Mimi Shao), seemed like an annoying plot device, but we get to see how the situation ends up affecting her.
The film has more sex and discrete nudity than I expected considering how tame Taiwanese and films that want distribution in many East Asian countries have to be to get around censors.
Unfortunately, a lot of the film's strengths are spoilers, including a character choice that I thought was genius and is something rarely shown in queer cinema. "Your Name Engraved Herein" is an excellent film, but an intense one with violence and a some sexual scenes that are uncomfortable to watch. I am not surprised that it has been nominated for and won several awards.