In 1980s Taiwan, where the desire for freedom and democracy is boiling over, three young friends – Mabel, Liam and Aaron become entangled in a troubled relationship that mirrors the tumultuous social changes over the last three decades in Taiwanese history. 

Mabel, Liam and Aaron were born in the same small town, deep in the far south of Taiwan. They were children together in a kind of rural paradise, surrounded by magnolia and camphor trees. Even down in this tropical idyll, however, where it feels like nothing has changed for centuries, time marches on. 

In this final, hotbed year, new feelings arise, which alter the childhood bonds between them forever: Aaron loves Mabel, but Mabel only has eyes for Liam; who likes her, but not in the way as she expects; Liam has never admitted it to anyone, but who he’s really in love with, is Aaron. While Liam remains impervious to all Mabel’s displays of affection, Aaron steps up his pursuit until, eventually, Mabel gives in to his attentions.

It’s the 1980s. Taiwan is still under Martial Law, and the Taiwanese people are still locked into the battle to have it lifted; a social revolution is set to take off. Mabel, Liam, and Aaron throw themselves into taking part: they graffiti slogans in the corners of their school, publish incendiary poems in the school paper, and plot protest movements during morning assembly time. 

Finally, the time comes to leave behind the relative calm of the countryside for the bright lights of the big city. As students in Taipei, they fight even harder for their ideals: they join the Wild Lily Movement, taking part in a sit-in to advocate for freedom and democracy. In the course of this, long-held secrets are revealed. The truth comes out about Liam’s feelings for Aaron. The revelation strikes a chord of betrayal and deception into the heart of the friendship, and the friends drift further and further apart. 

More time passes. Society opens up, the economy develops. The three are no longer students. Life is fast-paced and it takes over; they lose touch with their youthful ideals. Mabel finds herself becoming the Other Woman in Aaron’s marriage; Liam, also, finds himself caught up in an affair with a married man. 

Coming almost full-circle, Mabel and Liam finally put aside their differences, and are reconciled. The old friends are there for one another through times of emotional hardship and extreme tragedy. With this, they come to realise once again the true value of their lifelong friendship: little by little, they turn that pact they made all those years ago into a whole new kind of present…

Courtesy of Ablaze Image Ltd.


Yang Ya-che: Director’s Q&A

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