This is my review of Moneyboys (金錢男孩), a Taiwanese LGBTQ film that was released on 12 July 2021 at Cannes.
Fei lives in the city working as a “Moneyboy”, a sex worker and sends money back to his family. His family accepts his money but not his sexuality. Fei struggles to make a new life for himself but appears to get much worse.
The film was made in Taipei City, Taiwan, but is set in China. So the perspective of this movie is that of being gay and a sex worker there. It appears to have been a joint production between a number of countries. It was made in Mandarin although the version we saw appeared to have English titles at the beginning and end.
I have never heard of any of the actors in the movie, no familiar faces.
Kai Ko (柯震東) as Liang Fei
His father is singer Ke Yaozong. Kai Ko’s career goes back to playing movies in 2011 and directing “Bad Education” in 2021. He won the 48th Golden Horse Award for Best New Performer Award for the movie “You Are The Apple of my Eye”.
JC Lin (林哲熹) as Han Xiao Lai
He has appeared in numerous TV shows and films since 2018.
Bai Yu Fan (白宇帆) as Liang Long
He is an actor from China who graduated from the Nanjing University of the Arts. Before becoming an actor he served in the liberation army.
This film received a lot of praise from many people and many global awards from different film festivals including Cannes.
The film is what I would classify as “artsy”. I am guessing this is why it won a lot of awards. Some said it was “realistic” and didn’t include any of the cliches you normally see in LGBTQ movies, which is true. It is also very different from any other Taiwanese, or Asian come to that, movie or TV series.
However, it isn’t a happy film, in fact, there isn’t a jolly moment throughout its 2 hours. The movie shows sequences of people doing nothing and not talking to each other much, I guess this is what they call artsy but I just felt “what on earth is relevant about this scene”. Two times they showed a movement on a gravelly road and I’m not sure what that had to do with the movie, maybe an artistic inner concept of the story. I didn’t find the cinematography as great as some people had described it.
Virtually every city sequence showed squaller, just the worst of the country on display.
Even though the ending wasn’t positive, I was left thinking “that’s the end”? We were left thinking Fei is going to be miserable forever looking back to one moment of happiness in his life. Maybe the moral of the story is “don’t be gay or a sex worker otherwise you are destined for misery your entire life”, maybe this is realistic for life in China.
If artsy movies are your thing then this might be a film for you. Personally, I will give it a 1 out of 5.
How To Watch
The movie is available and is licensed to Mubi.