There are films that surprise you with their talent and technique, and then leave you wanting more. Such a film is Girlfriend Boyfriend, an epic from Taiwan filmmaker Ya-Che Yang that covers the lives of three friends from a small village over a period of two decades. Starting in the present day we meet rebellious schoolgirls and the smiling father of two who obviously thinks their protest, removing their school uniform skirts in unison, is apropos to their demands (they want to wear shorts to school).

The films title in English is actually written on the screen as Gf Bf. The action shifts to 1985 and we establish a trio of characters who instigate reform through their (banned) student publication. As they mature they move to a bigger city and take part in the Wild Lily student revolt that swept through Taiwan in 1990. But the changes on display here aren’t just social and political but sexual as each of the main characters move through different levels of intimacy with each other.

Girlfriend Boyfriend doesn’t pander to its audience or its characters. Events are presented in dramatic fashion with sensitivity to feelings, all with the background of a society in tumult. That’s not to say there aren’t loud party scenes to counterbalance the mass demonstrations that stir the characters loyalty. Gf Bf is playing exclusively at the AMC Studio 30.

A less exciting exclusive rollout demonstrates that even indie style films can backfire. Ruby Sparks is the least interesting film Fox Searchlight has ever released. The lackluster response may be due to the high level of talent involved, what with the Little Miss Sunshine helmers taking on a fable written by star Zoe Kazan. The cast while studded with well-known faces (Paul Dano, Elliot Gould, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening) seems to be on a quirky road to nowhere. If the story of a young nebbish novelist who creates a flesh and blood woman (girlfriend) seems to promise bountiful rewards the fuse fizzles after the initial set-up. There was a season one ep of Twilight Zone with Phyllis Kirk and Keenan Wynn that actually made the fantasy woman created by a writer concept work.

More promising would be Total Recall, which isn’t so much a remake of the 1990 TR so much as a slightly more faithful adaptation of the original Phillip K. Dick story both films are based on. Today’s TR is all about the production design and digital effects, and on that front the film gets raves from eyeballs. Story wise Total Recall wants to be a gigantic chase film, so we’re on the run a lot, which means you get to see a lot of the architecture of a single dystopian city. Kate Beckinsale gets all the best baddie mugging shots and displays some cool combat moves that involve sliding across the floor.

— Michael Bergeron