What you need to know
Filipino filmmaker Joselito Altarejos tackles issues of identity and belonging, embodied by the profoundly moving stories of a Filipino mechanic and a gay Taiwanese aborigine student.
A chance encounter between two men leads to an impromptu road trip that will forever redefine both of their identities - this is the “Tale of the Lost Boys” (他和他的心旅程). Directed by Filipino filmmaker Joselito Altarejos, the film tackles issues of identity and belonging, embodied by two profoundly moving stories.
“Tale of the Lost Boys” is not a typical coming-out narrative; instead it splices the journeys of two men both yearning for a deeper connection to their parents while also coming to terms with their own identities. Alex, a Filipino mechanic (played by Oliver Aquino), escapes to Taipei after learning that his girlfriend is pregnant, while Jerry, a gay Taiwanese aborigine student (Soda Voyu), fears that his traditional parents will reject him for his sexuality.
While most narratives of self-discovery address the issue of coming out to older, more conservative generations, few have done it from the perspective of the Taiwanese aborigine community. Perhaps what is most appealing about “Tale of the Lost Boys” is its careful attention to these intertwined stories; one that approaches its multicultural narrative with a sensitivity that belies all of its character’s interactions.
At once the film lulls with its fluid camera action before jarring with the reality of its character’s plights, interjected with stunning neon shots. The chronology of the film is not punctuated by explosive events or revelations, but rather it allows its characters to develop slowly, developing a friendship that is profoundly intimate and deeply authentic. Alex is unable to reconcile his troubled sense of identity after his parental abandonment, while Jerry struggles both to come to terms with his tribal responsibilities and his sexual identity to his parents.
Torn between family and identity, both men find comfort in each other. In an interview Altarejos said: “We see a lot of gay films where the characters are lovers, but we want to break that. We want to say that there are stories that do not necessarily involve romantic love or sex, but a friendship.” In this shared cultural environment, he adds, “there are semblances in cultures that are so uncanny that there really is a connection, because identity is a universal issue; it is not exclusive to any group of people.” As a result, “Tale of the Lost Boys” refuses to be pigeonholed, but instead addresses a multitude of genres that makes it truly diverse.
At its core the film asks “Who am I?”, and it is the universal issue of identity that compels the viewer to not only intimately invest themselves in the character’s stories, but also identify with them. In one poignant scene, the camera pans outwards as the two men bid each other farewell after returning from their trip, inadvertently inviting the viewer into their intimate embrace. It is the film’s attention to detail and unfiltered exploration of identity that makes it so compelling.
While the filmography of its director, Altarejos, is dominated by gay-themed films, “Tale of the Lost Boys” signals an important shift towards broader tropes of identity and belonging. Indeed, it was only last May that a Taiwanese court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. But with government delays to approving legislation, it seems these themes are more relevant than ever.
“Tale of the Lost Boys” premiered at the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival this month. It has yet to premier in the Philippines. The next screening in Taipei is on Nov. 3 at 10 p.m. at Brilliant Time Bookstore. The film is available online exclusively at GagaOOlala.