This special reward is available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 monthly levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. If they choose, they also get to include some of their thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Bekah Lindstrom.
Eternal Summer (2006)
Written by Leste Chen
Directed by Hsu Cheng-ping
I know this is likely several people’s favorite movie, if not that, at least something they watched as a teenager in the mid/late-2000s, and it shaped them in some way. However, this soap operatic melodrama is so corny. It’s harmless but not close to how real life and relationships play out. Oozing with broody teen angst and wallowing in the drama, Eternal Summer was certainly not a movie made for someone like me. That’s fine, but if this is a picture you enjoy, you probably won’t enjoy my review because I did not like this movie.
As a child, Jonathan (Ray Chang) was a good student. However, he was asked by a teacher to look after Shane (Joseph Chang), a rebellious boy who always found ways to get into trouble and whose grades suffered as a result. Ten years later, they are on the verge of graduation and are still strong friends. Jonathan is still a fantastic student, while Shane has found his place on the school’s basketball team. The element that shakes things up is Carrie (Kate Yeung), who arrives from Hong Kong after an argument with her father. It becomes clear that she gets ping-ponged between parents who don’t quite know what to do with her.
Carrie befriends Jonathan as he is incredibly affable, and they skip school to spend a day in Taipei. That evening they rent a hotel room, and Carrie attempts to seduce the boy. He backs out at the last minute, which only increases her curiosity. It doesn’t take much observation, and she realizes Jonathan is in love with Shane. Dun dun dun! Carrie wants to help; however, in meeting Shane via Jonathan, the basketball player is attracted to her. Shane’s sophomoric behavior completely turns Carrie off, but she eventually warms up to him as they get to know each other better. But what about Jonathan!?
A twist occurs when Shane gets things together and is accepted to a decent university while Jonathan fails his exams. Oh no, the irony! Shane can’t figure out what is wrong with his bestie and assumes Jonathan must like Carrie too. Being the pal that he is, Shane tries to hide his feelings around his friend, but inevitably the truth comes out as it always does: when one guy is hit by a car while riding his motorcycle. We’ve all been there, am I right, folks? Jonathan brings Shane back home, and the feelings come out. Shane doesn’t turn his friend down, and they do the nasty in a disturbingly humid bedroom. That had to have felt gross pretty quickly. You need air conditioning or a good standing fan that can rotate.
If you are expecting this movie to end with any of this resolved, well…it just sort of stops. Shane & Jonathan have a fistfight on the beach, and Carrie walks away distraught. Jonathan confesses his love, and Shane, well, Shane just can’t, bro. It’s all so complicated and, most importantly, moodily dramatic. There are so many tropes that even I, a relative noob in Taiwanese melodrama, was spotting. Especially troubling is the love triangle, with one character having to choose between a same-sex relationship and a woman. It feels like women in these stories get reduced to plot obstacles, which is really weird. Carrie starts out as a great ally, understanding Jonathan quickly and trying to help him to open up to Shane. I thought it was a very gross twist for the sake of drama to have her become attracted to Shane.
It feels pretty clear to me that Jonathan is about to be friend-zoned by Shane, which, well, I cannot even comprehend how horrifically embarrassing that would be. He got to have sex with the person he is in love with and then confessed his love to him, only to have Shane be like, “It was cool & all, but I’m going to be sticking with the girl I met a month ago.” From a cursory glance on the internet, it seems this sort of plot is prevalent in Taiwan (gay love between high school besties)? I love when we have more LGBTQ stories but…uh, not like this, please? Okay, some of them can be this, but might we explore the lives of queer people in more complexity than teen melodrama?
From a technical point of view, Eternal Summer is reasonably well-shot, especially in the first half. The director was really into Dutch angles and kept forcing them more and more as the movie went on. Unfortunately, there are also scenes with one of my least favorite elements, post-production slow motion. Instead of shooting a scene in slow motion, they just digitally stutter during editing. Ugh. This shows up in Gladiator, too, and I hate it so much. Just shoot it in proper slow motion or find another way of filming the scene that you can do!
Decent in the first half, dragging on way too long in the second, Eternal Summer was a miss for me. However, I don’t think it ever really had a chance. I tried to keep an open mind because I love many films from Southeast Asia, but this has me wondering about Taiwanese movies. I don’t think I’ve seen many, which certainly didn’t pique my interest. I am sure the country has some better filmmakers – a quick Google search, and yes, I have heard of many of the more notable directors but only see films from one of them. I won’t give up on you yet, Taiwanese Cinema!