Dir: Leste Chen. Taiwan. 2006. 95mins.

A far cry from his horror film debut Heirloom, which broke box-office recordsin Taiwanlast year, Leste Chen's new film Eternal Summer is an intimate coming-of-age love triangle,whose gay theme gradually emerges until it takes over by the end. Sensitivelydirected and performed with sincere emotion by three young actors who seemdestined to grab some of Taiwan'slimelight in years to come, this tale of friendship between two men fromboyhood to adolescence is quite a feat for a director who is only 25.

Eternal Summer should be a regular visitor to international festivals in the months, mainstreamas well as gay, and could find a respectable niche in the commercial market,although explicit scenes towards the end may cause censorship issues in morerestrictive markets (in Korea the film was limited to over-18 audiences).

Jonathan and Shane firstmeet in junior school when the principal asks well-behaved Jonathan to become abeneficial influence on the troublesome Shane, an unruly solitary pranksterdisliked by the other kids and about to be expelled for cutting the hair of a girl.

Though they strike it offfamously, it is Shane who becomes the dominant partner in this tandem, leadingJonathan astray until the golden boy's grades sink, if never as low as those ofhis new found pal.

The two are still bestfriends as the plot follows them into high school. Shane (now energeticallyplayed by Joseph Chang) has blossomed into a kind of class hero, an athletic,outgoing basketball star with fans who follow him around. Meanwhile Jonathan(Bryant Chang) is more of a reclusive introvert, tagging along in Shane'sshadow.

Then, out of nowhere, comes thewinsome Carrie (Kate Young), a free spirited teen who is far more adult thanmost girls her age. At first she gets closer to Jonathan, eloping one day toTaipei and renting a room in a hotel, where Jonathan's failed sexualperformance puts an end to their affair, if not their friendship.

When Shane later tries tomuscle in on her, Carrie laughingly says she would only consider him if he was acceptedto university - an impossible task given his poor performance at school.

Still, through the magicthat only films can work, Shane is Carrie's regular boyfriend when we next meetthe trio, having been accepted to university. While Carrie is now a mediastudent, Jonathan has failed his exams and is sent to a private, much lessprestigious school, to cram his way towards retakes.

At this point an earthquakeoccurs in this love triangle, shaking the foundations of their delicaterelationship, for it is clear that Jonathan is desperately in love with Shane,who would rather not reciprocate for as long as he can. Meanwhile Carrie, whogradually perceives their predicament, gives the pair a final nudge through aheart-rending confession facing the ocean.

Some brisker cutting in thefirst half of Eternal Summer mighthave been useful, but the second half picks up neatly, improving as it approachesits climactic ending. Chen, who is more than a little indebted to Truffaut - especially 400Blows for the problematic kids and the beach scene at the end and Jules & Jim for the basic structure -displays remarkable restraint and understanding.

He never rushes to telegraphhis intentions, instead surreptitiously allowing them to creep in until theybecome clear. By the end the relationship between the boys is evident enough toresult in a graphic love scene.

Granted, the script allows thenarrative all sorts of liberties, such as largely ignoring parental presenceand financial problems; explaining Shane's intellectual leap into academia throughhis urge to gain Carrie's favours is also hardly sufficient.

But Eternal Summer is a work that takes place in a limbo governed bysentiment, and is ultimately moving because the characters are so carefullylimned, not only by the script but also by the touching, if sometimes hesitantperformances.

The cast are mostsatisfactory, with Joseph Chang successful as cocky, self-assured heartbreaker Shane,and Bryant Chang, conveying well Jonathan, a troubled teenager consumed by apassion he dares not reveal. The more experienced Kate Young - who played in SylviaChang's 20 30 40 and the Pang brothers'The Eye - rounds off the lead players.

Production companies/backers
Rolling Film Entertainment
Flash Forward Entertainment

International sales
Three Dots Entertainment

Leste Chen
Patrick Mao-Huang

Cheng-Ping Hsu
From original story by Dean Wang

Charlie Lam

Hsiao Yun-Ku

Production design
Chan-Chih Shen

Jeffrey Cheng

Main cast
Joseph Chang
Bryant Chang
Kate Young