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Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? is the latest film from Taiwanese filmmaker Arvin Chen. The film is simultaneously a lighthearted comedic film with overarching romantic elements and a much more serious dramatic character study that is about romantic relationships and about searching for happiness. Film Movement presents Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? as a example of an intelligent and uniquely created independently-spirited film; one that was met with acclaim at film festivals and from critics.
The story centers around a couple of characters all intertwined in a series of developments causing them to think about (or re-think) their romantic relationships. The introverted and decidedly shy Weichung works at a glasses store as an optometrist. This interesting story placement is curious as the metaphor of the film shows his blindness to seeing himself as perfectly clear as one his prescriptions for vision is.
Weichung is a gay man, but stopped seeing other men so that he could start a family. His aspirations to be considered socially acceptable in Vietnamese society and to be a father contributed to this change despite it not allowing his heart to seek the romance that was essentially being forfeited so he could fit into the image of being a straight Vietnamese individual. Weichung was always incredibly close to his wife Feng (as they started off being friends). However, Feng does not know that she married a gay man. She wants another child with Weichung but they never consummate their love and haven't for years, and Weichung certainly doesn't want to have such relations with Feng.
Weichung's sweet but indecisive younger sister got engaged to an equally sweet, kind man. Indecisiveness is one of his sister's main attributes as she is in love with the man she became engaged to but is worried about what will happen if they marry and if it will be an ending to her having more possibilities in life. Will she spend all her time going forward only shopping at the food court, raising children, working, watching television, and doing little else? There sorts of thoughts permeate her and she becomes worried about getting married.
Later in the film she decides to leave him... immediately following this decision she goes off to watch soap opera romances all day while eating lots of ramen noodles and misses the point of her life entering standstill as she is afraid of what the commitment to him will mean for her future. She loves him but doesn't know what to do with herself now. She begins to envision characters from her soap operas paying her a visit to give her love advice.
During the engagement rehearsals held for Weichung's sister he runs into an old gay friend of his who he discovers has married to a lesbian friend. This concept ignites in him some of his repressed homosexual feelings, and he begins to wonder if he could be a good father and also return to having a relationship with another man. However, Weichung also doesn't want to be unfaithful in his marriage to Feng. Yet over the course of the film he begins to flirt and spend time with a customer who came to his glasses shop and they begin to slowly date. Meanwhile, Feng begins to suspect he is having an affair with another woman, and begins to notice what continually seems to be affection from one of her fellow co-workers, who seems to be falling madly in love with her. He is falling for her... and so much so that he convinces his boss to let him go and to promote her as it pains him to work with her knowing they can't be together. Yet the story might not end there.
Over the course of the storytelling, these characters relationships change and develop but these characters ultimately remain faithful and true to one another in caring for the feelings of each other and revelations happen amongst themselves -- between Weichung and Feng, Feng and admirer, and Weichung's sister and engaged 'would-be husband'. Somehow the film works a careful balance of character development, comedy, drama, and romance to be both believable and heartfelt without feeling cynical or mean-spirited.
At the beginning of the film, it seemed inevitable that the characters would wind up have affairs with others and break the hearts of the people they were in relationships with. It seemed like it would end up being a unpleasant and unkind film, which as it turns out was not the case at all. Luckily, the filmmaker was much smarter than that and Chen makes the film compassionate, non-judgmental, and takes it to a happy ending where family and friendships can exist while allowing the characters to find a way to be true to themselves, and ultimately be the happier people they were meant to be.
Chen's script is smart in a way that really makes the movie work when a less talented writer would have made it flail around unnecessarily and the results would have been a less moving, less impressive, and less successful tale. Instead, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? isn't any 'less' of a movie: it's a whole lot more. The film is a good character study and viewers who are interesting in characters will find it a fascinating film. It's also a sweet-natured one, despite the complicated subject matter involved, and that helps the film to be more enjoyable and audience friendly.
Chen's direction is also superb and offers time for careful nuances and for some great surrealist moments such as a scene in which a man floats into the air with his umbrella, a newly happy Weichung drifts upwards into the sky as his emotions begin to make him feel as if 'on air', when Feng begins to understand her relationship to Weichung in a different light and sings the famous song (the title of the movie) Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow as she drifts into a fun, inventive song and dance number with great choreography (while remaining at the karaoke bar within the plot-line's reality). These quirky and offbeat moments give a lighter spirit and heart, bringing the film a more vibrant feeling that simultaneously reminds one of something surreal that might be found in a Wong Kar Wai film or the good-natured whimsy found in many of the best Disney movies.
This is certainly more cheerful as a film than the more downtrodden and tragedy-based Brokeback Mountain, which comparatively shares some similar story concepts, even if the filmmaking approach is wildly different. Fans of good-natured character based dramas who can appreciate what is a complex story of human relationships will find a lot to appreciate and explore with this high quality effort.
The performances by all of the leading actors are nuanced, effective, and impressive. The cast sinks into their respective roles with authenticity and manage to bring the script to life with a fervor that makes the entire enterprise of this creative film all the more successful. Overall, I found that Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? had many surprises and by the ending it was a much more accomplished and successful film than I first imagined it being. Fans of smartly realized character studies and romantic comedies will find this is a film well worth seeing.
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? arrives on DVD from Film Movement. The release is one that once again demonstrates the quality of the label with a solid quality presentation that is in the original theatrical exhibition ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen (and it has also been done with the benefit of anamorphic widescreen enhancement). Colors are generally subdued but accurate to the film's style and the sleek cinematography is clean, well defined, and proficient for what is a modern production.
The film is presented with a 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound audio presentation in the original Mandarin (with English subtitles). No dub is provided. This is a dialogue heavy film and one I was not surprised to discover is quiet and character based. This film is really a character study, after all. Many scenes in the story are focused upon conversations and not so much on other levels of audio design. The audio works for this film nicely.
This release contains a interview with Arvin Chen (10 min.), the writer/director of the film Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? as well as the monthly Film Movement short film.
This month's selection is Mei (another piece directed by Chen), in which love strikes a young man while working at a noodle stand for the girl who helps to operate it. It is a delicate, sweet, and charming short that seems to have been at least partially the inspiration for this feature. It was a student film done in the director's M.F.A. program and is worth a watch for fans of the main feature.
Film Movement releases also include notes on why the film was selected for release and a brief statement provided by the director. Trailers promoting other Film Movement releases are also included.
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? is a surprising film about relationships. At first I thought I wouldn't like the film based on initial impressions of the storyline but the more that it would unfold it became clear that this is an intelligent character study and something quite different from the norm of romantic comedies.
A huge element of the film is about repressed homosexuality in Taiwanese men (and the film manages this without any nudity), but the film explores a wide range of relationship elements and is one that manages to surprise with its thoughtfulness. In the director's included notes, the idea for film started when he learned from a homosexual friend that many Taiwanese gay men (who his friend once knew) were getting married and starting families. As a filmmaker, Chen decided to tell a story that would address this concept and explore it.
Film Movement continues to impress with a worthwhile addition to the ever-growing library of excellent foreign language and independent films and this one is worth a look for fans of Asian cinema. (Note: Interestingly, Warner Bros. is shown as a distributor in the credits to certain territories but apparently the United States wasn't amongst those areas. Thank goodness for labels that exist like Film Movement, otherwise one can't help but wonder if films like this would instead remain lost is a sea of less successful distribution).
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.