Film review: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
Starring: Richie Jen Hsien-chi, Mavis Fan Hsiao-shuan, Stone, Kimi Hsia Yu-chiao
Director: Arvin Chen Chun-lin
Category: IIA (Mandarin, Korean and Taiwanese Hokkien)
A trio of interrelated amorous dilemmas leads to a multifaceted look at love, Taipei style, in this nuanced comedy-drama.
Three years after his stunning debut, Au Revoir Taipei, director-writer Arvin Chen Chun-lin's sophomore feature explores knottier but no less romantic terrain, and deals with them in a breezy manner that in no way diminishes their import.
At the centre of the film is Wei-chung (Richie Jen Hsien-chi), a middle-aged optician whose placid middle-class existence includes wife Feng (Mavis Fan Hsiao-shuan, above with Jen) and nine-year-old son Wan (Chang Wei-ning). His familial drama seems the exclusive purvey of younger sister Mandy (Kimi Hsia Yu-chiao) - a flamboyant travel agent harbouring grave doubts about her upcoming nuptials with live-in fiancé San-san (Stone ) - until a chance encounter with gay flight attendant Thomas (Stephen Wong Ka-lok) rekindles feelings Wei-chung had struggled to suppress since his marriage.
Chen's deft script takes on the parallel yet intertwined stories of 30-something professionals coming to terms with their innermost feelings and emerging from their psychological cocoons. Even more felicitously, he does so with a light touch devoid of sermonising.
In this respect, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? takes its place alongside the likes of Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet and Chen Yin-jung's Formula 17 as examples of Taiwanese cinema light years ahead of its Hong Kong counterpart when it comes to celluloid treatment of "alternative" lifestyles. This is not a "gay" film so much as a glimpse at a variety of individuals who turn relationship crises into springboards for renewal.
Not that Chen shies away from the gay stuff, displaying a full range of "types" including flamboyant wedding photographer Stephen (Lawrence Ko Yu-luen), a chum from Wei-chung's pre-heterosexual days, and Stephen's lesbian wife cum business partner (Vivi Lee Mei-wai).
The narrative's emotional complexity compensates in part for falling short of Au Revoir Taipei's exquisite blend of insight and quirkiness. Chen still has some fanciful tricks up his sleeve, mainly in the guise of daydreams. The most successful is Mindy's imaginary conversations with a cute Korean soap star (Lee Hae-woo) come to life in her own home.
The best choreographed fantasy sequence revolves around the title song, performed by hitherto humdrum Feng in a bouncy retro mode backed up by her suddenly glamorous office pals. But while both fun and thematically relevant, it shatters the illusion created by Fan's understated acting by reminding us that she is indeed a pop celebrity.
There is no such illusion-busting with Stone, lead guitarist of the Taiwanese alternative rock band Mayday, who unexpectedly conveys sincere naïveté whether wooing Mindy or accompanying his future brother-in-law to a gay bar. In the end, though, the movie's most edifying revelation is that the finesse of Au Revoir Taipei was no fluke and its director anything but a one-hit wonder.
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? opens today