“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”

Taiwanese-American helmer-scribe Arvin Chen's sophomore feature veers slightly from the fluffy, fanciful charm of his debut, "Au revoir Taipei," in favor of deeper character studies and more insightful reflections on life's vagaries.

A gently humorous take on a married man’s midlife gay reawakening, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” fans out to dramatize a full spectrum of relationship blues. Taiwanese-American helmer-scribe Arvin Chen’s sophomore feature veers slightly from the fluffy, fanciful charm of his debut, “Au revoir Taipei,” in favor of deeper character studies and more insightful reflections on life’s vagaries. Tonally flatter than its predecessor and a bit lacking in physical elan, it nonetheless progresses engagingly to a resolution simultaneously poignant and heartening. Pic should find love among straight Asian urbanites yet prompt mixed reactions from gay viewers.

For nine years, Wei-chung (Richie Jen) has been cozily married to Feng (Mavis Fan) while holding down a steady job at a Taipei optical shop. Feng, who often shirks her work duties to take care of their young son, Awan (Chang Wei-ning), starts to worry when an impending company merger signals possible layoffs. She also suspects Wei-chung of infidelity when he keeps putting off having another baby.

At an engagement party for his sister Mandy (Kimi Hsia), Wei-chung bumps into wedding photographer Stephen (Lawrence Ko), a blast from his gay past. His inner longings stirred by this encounter, Wei-chung later furtively responds to the advances of a male customer, Hong Kong flight attendant Thomas (Wong Ka-lok). Meanwhile, Mandy gets pre-wedding jitters and leaves her wussy fiance (Stone) stranded in a massive supermarket, holing herself up for a Korean TV drama marathon and devouring enough cup noodles to feed Pyongyang.

Chen perceptively acknowledges the double standards in Taiwan’s metrosexual yet Confucian society, where having a vibrant gay community doesn’t mean being accepted by one’s parents, as demonstrated by Stephen’s on-paper marriage to a lesbian. Still, the film delicately avoids any Sturm und Drang when it comes to Wei-chung’s in-and-out-of-the-closet dilemmas. His attraction to Thomas is expressed as a rekindling of a childlike joy and an escape from humdrum existence, beautifully captured in a scene in which he gazes into Thomas’ eyes using a slit-lamp microscope.

“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” is thus a sweet romantic comedy rather than a coming-out film, yet still in tune with Taiwanese cinema’s proliferation of ditzy, feel-good commercial youth films on the subject of gay love. However, as the characters’ romantic and professional troubles come to a head, the narrative gracefully eases into soul-searching drama, culminating in a touchingly open ending in which all four of them, especially Feng, take bold steps in realizing the meaning of happiness. Ultimately, the film is about the surprises life springs on everyone, no matter how well they plan for it.

Although the pacing is more laidback than in “Au revoir Taipei,” the humor more rooted in believable (if bizarre) real-life situations than in slapstick shenanigans, the comic timing remains spot-on and the jokes fetchingly offbeat in an utterly Taiwanese way. Occasional fantasy sequences are a refreshing touch, playfully channeling Woody Allen, Jacques Tati and Jacques Demy, though they don’t have quite the stylistic panache needed to gel with the more realistic scenes.

Chen pulls off a mini-coup in casting most of his leads against type. With his mixture of innocence and sexual repression, singer-thesp Jen subverts but never mocks his dorky, decidedly straight screen image in past films like “Summer Holiday” (2000). Fan possesses the deepest emotional range, limning Feng’s growth from a meek white-collar drone to someone who dares to show anger and embrace change; the actress’ background as an edgy singer-songwriter proves crucial in a magical scene in which her zombie-like karaoke rendering of the title song segues into a sparkling musical number.

Stone, guitarist for rock band Mayday, is endearing as a good-natured dweeb, and his budding friendships with Stephen and his clique are more involving than his shallow relationship with spoiled airhead Mandy.

Polished tech package creates a workaday but pleasant ambience largely through Hsia Hsiao-yu’s bright, fluid lensing and Justin Guerrieri’s unobtrusive editing. The working title was “Afternoon Delight,” named after a gay club in the film; the current Chinese title translates as “Remember to Fall in Love With Me Tomorrow.”

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

Taiwan

Production

A Warner Bros. (in Taiwan)/Golden Scene Co. (in Hong Kong) release of a 1 Prod. Film Co., Central Motion Picture Co., Alan Tong presentation of a 1 Prod. Film Co. production. (International sales: Media Asia Film Distribution, Hong Kong.) Produced by Chang Ya-ting. Executive producers, Lee Lieh, Roger Huang. Co-producer, Lee In-ah. Directed, written by Arvin Chen.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Hsia Shao-yu; editor, Justin Guerrieri; music/music supervisor, Hsu Wen; production designer, Huang Mei-ching; art director, Shou Feng-tu; set decorator, Chia Cheng-cheng; costume designer, Sharon Wei; sound (Dolby Digital); supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer, Frank Cheng; visual effects supervisors, Aben Le, GZ Yuyi; line producer, Wu Jung-chen; assistant director, Yu Wei-shan. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama Special), Feb. 9, 2012. Running time: 105 MIN.

With

Richie Jen, Mavis Fan, Kimi Hsia, Stone, Lawrence Ko, Wong Ka-lok, Lee Hae-woo, Chang Wei-ning. (Mandarin, Taiwanese, Korean, English dialogue)

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