' ' Cinema Romantico: CIFF Review: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

CIFF Review: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

Writer/Director Arvin Chen’s new film takes for its title The Shirelles’ 1960 pop standard, a song performed in an obligatory karaoke scene blending reality and fantasy, joy and sadness. It is a demonstration of what made many of those songs from the 50’s and 60’s so great – sonically they were all sunshine and rainbows, lyrically they were often honest and aching. Thus, Chen takes that idea and communicates it cinematically. The film has a fanciful air and a bright visual sheen, but lurking is an undercurrent of melancholy. Formally, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” is very much a rom com, what with its meet cutes and misunderstandings, and yet it’s still willing to drop a tab of Alka Seltzer into the sugary milkshake. Here, whimsy actually has consequences.

Its focus is two couples, connected as family, but each one finding its romantic ideals tested. Mandy (Kimi Hsia), suggesting a reformed party girl, breaks off her engagement to San San (Stone), whose name alone evokes a Sad Sack if his general demeanor did not, more from fear than any logical reason. She stays indoors and watches soaps as the soap’s leading man continually materializes beside her, dispensing advice that only appears to enable her already questionable attitude.

Meanwhile, Mandy’s older brother, Weichung (Richie Jen), a demure optometrist, finds his long repressed homosexuality re-bubbling to the surface when a handsome flight attendant (Wong Ka-Lok) enters his shop and makes eyes at him through his brand new frames. This is problematic because Weichung has a young son with his wife of nine years, Feng (Mavis Fan), whose own turmoil involves potential downsizing at her office job.

Help for both confused men arrives in the form of gay greek chorus, fronted by wedding photographer Stephen (Lawrence Ko), who is in a marriage to a lesbian – a tart character that could have used a little more screen time – that purposely has no boundaries to afford maximum happiness. He coaches hapless San San in an effort to first re-woo Mandy and then become his own man. He urges Weichung to be honest with himself, and so Weichung tentatively begins to explore feelings he put aside for responsibility upon saying “I do.”

Feng, as it happens, is the weight that keeps “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” from floating into the billowy clouds, not unlike an umbrella-sporting character near the start who finds himself whisked into the sky at a moment of profound happiness. Most films would have been content to focus on Weichung’s coming out, to show him as the victor simply for acknowledging the truth, but Chen’s film also acknowledges the price to pay for that truth is Feng’s own well-being.

Hope and hurt collide, and a happy ending is proven more difficult to achieve than merely taking a magical umbrella ride.

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