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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 24 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 04
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? An interview with writer/director Arvin Chen
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Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? An interview with writer/director Arvin Chen

by Gary M. Kramer - SGN Contributing Writer

A sweet and bittersweet romantic comedy-drama, the wonderful Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? features a handful of Gay and straight characters in modern Taipei, who are unhappy in their lives and relationships. Writer/director Arvin Chen may be straight, but he displays a real sensitivity towards his characters. In a recent Skype interview Chen claimed he is often assumed to be Gay, and joked, 'I don't think making this film helps.'

The filmmaker, who lives in Taipei, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has had Gay friends most of his life, and cited them as one of the reasons he chose to make this film. Chen said he even modeled one of the film's Queer characters - 'down to their dialogue' - after one of his best friends.

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? concerns Weichung (Richie Jen), a married optometrist, whose wife Feng (Mavis Fan) wants to have a second child. However, at his sister, Mandy's (Kimi Hsia) engagement party, Weichung reconnects with his old friend Stephen (Lawrence Ko), a Gay man. The glum Weichung soon finds himself reconsidering his repressed same-sex feelings and questioning his marriage - especially when he meets Thomas (Wong Ka-lok), an adorable flight attendant. Meanwhile, after Mandy breaks off her engagement to San-San (Stone), San-San enlists Stephen and his Queer friends to help him win his fiancé back.

The core of the film focuses on each character grappling with a pivotal romantic crisis. Chen explained, 'Weichung thinks he has moved on from being Gay, but that affects his wife's story. Does he love her? And what will she do when he can't love her? His sister is also struggling with commitment and her romance being compromised.'

Rather than become a despairing romantic drama, Chen's buoyant film uses elements of fantasy, as when the broken-hearted Mandy gets relationship advice from a soap opera actor who visits her in her apartment. The director deliberately subverts the tropes of traditional romantic comedies, which is what distinguishes his film and makes it as charming as it is wistful.

Chen explained, 'I try to find humor in situations that are not inherently funny, but also try to find sadness in scenes that are not inherently sad.'

He continued, 'These characters live in a boring world, and have mundane jobs, but this film says that fantastical things could happen.'

One such magical realist moment occurs in a pre-credit sequence where Weichung's boss literally flies away with an umbrella. Another sequence - Chen's favorite - has Feng singing the title song in a karaoke bar. What begins as a solo performance soon turns into a full-blown musical number complete with backup singers. Like many of the scenes in the film, this episode is melancholic, sunny, and fantastic all at the same time.

Chen also infuses his entire film in bright, colorful visuals that are a wink and a nod to 1950s Hollywood melodramas and musicals. The writer/director referenced Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven as a similarly stylish-looking film. 'Heaven is more melodrama, ours is goofy comedy, but the same aesthetic works in this story. The colors, music, and cinematography are much more from this older era.'

As for the Gay characters, Chen shows how Weichung struggles as he tries to conform to societal pressure in Taiwan to be married and have a family. In contrast, the openly Gay Stephen is less concerned about social norms and expectations; he finds a loophole, and marries a Lesbian.

Stephen is the film's happiest character, and while Ko may come across as a somewhat flamboyant stereotype, Chen observed that he wanted him to be the opposite of the conservative Weichung. 'Stephen knows exactly who he is, and he is completely realized as a person. He has no conflicts.'

He acknowledged that Stephen's Gay friends, who help the heartbroken San-San, act as the film's Shakespearean chorus. Chen said, 'Like Stephen, they are above the story, and happy with who they are. They are dispensing advice rather than struggling with their own problems.'

The filmmaker indicated that he did not specifically cast straight or Gay actors for any of the roles. 'There are not many openly Gay actors in Asia. We had to worry about straight actors who wouldn't want to do the film. All the main characters playing Gay are straight, with the exception of one or two supporting roles.'

Chen hopes that Queer audiences will appreciate his film and his characters. He noted that Gay viewers who have seen Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? actually identify more with Feng because her story is perhaps the most moving. She gives an extra dimension to her husband's coming out drama.

That said, Weichung's emotional conflict is handled very respectfully. Chen's aim was to recapture a kind of adolescent love for the character; how Weichung felt when he first had feelings for a man. The object of his affection, Thomas, functions an attractive and possibly unattainable fantasy character. Still, Thomas makes Weichung literally float in another of the film's wonderful magical scenes.

Weichung's storyline in particular, and the film's lush romantic qualities in general, will resonate with anyone who has sought love or struggled for personal happiness. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? is a film for romantics to embrace.

© 2013 Gary M. Kramer

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