The love triangle is a time-honored plot device, but in the lyrical film Eternal Summer, it takes a different turn.
The story follows three friends, Jonathan (Jui-Chia Chang), Shane (Joseph Chang) and Kate (Hui-Chia). Jonathan and Shane meet as children when their teacher pairs them together in class. Shane has behavior problems, so Jonathan is tasked with making sure he doesn’t fall behind. The contrived pairing eventually turns into a true life-long friendship.
In high school, Jonathan meets up with Kate, another seeming misfit. A failed attempt at seduction makes Jonathan realize he’s not into women. Jonathan is dealt another blow when he fails to get into a good college.
Kate and Shane eventually become a couple, which doesn’t please Jonathan. Jonathan tries to pull himself away from the couple, which doesn’t please Shane. So it falls to Kate to set everything straight, so to speak.
A woman in a gay love triangle usually pines after the unattainable gay man, as Jennifer Aniston’s Nina Borowski does with Paul Rudd’s Geroge Hanson in The Object of My Affection. Kate, however, confounds that type.
She cozies up to Shane as a way to remain close to Jonathan, but when she realizes her intrusion is pushing both men away, she steps up to keep them all together.
The relationship between Jonathan and Shane evolves organically as well. It’s obvious to the audience the bond between the two runs deeper than either of them realize, and it’s heartening to see both stumble to a realization.
Eternal Summer unfolds at a gradual pace — yes, that’s another way of saying "slow" — but never once does it lose its momentum. The beautifully-shot rural scenes are wonderful eye candy, and despite a language barrier, the actors are all compelling.
(How do I know? I watched the Japanese film Boy’s Love right afterward, and even in Japanese, I could tell the acting was terrible.)
Eternal Summer won numerous awards in Taiwan, and it was a staple in the gay film festival circuit in 2006 and 2007. Its accolades are well deserved.