Film Review: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?Lively Taiwanese dramedy pits repressed sexuality against longstanding family traditions.
Hoping to answer the question posed by its titular Shirelles song—which, as is de rigueur in any recent Asian film, is performed here in a full-length karaoke version—writer-director Arvin Chen’s Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? follows two Taiwanese couples trying to stick together amid emotional and sexual upheavals that threaten the sanctity of their safe, and hetero, relationships. This ensemble romantic comedy-drama is wry and whimsical, but perhaps too broad for artsy Western tastes.
From its playful premiere sequence, which concludes with a character opening an umbrella and floating up to the sky, Tomorrow distinguishes itself from the kind of dark, Taipei-set stories that have filled fests and art houses over the last few decades. Indeed, the American-born and educated Chen’s debut feature, Au Revoir Tapei, was already a genre-jumping crossover, and his latest seems to tread in similar waters, sharing influences with both local classics (Edward Yang—another purveyor of ’60s pop—comes to mind) and works from Hollywood’s Golden Age, especially the Technicolor romances of Vincente Minnelli and George Cukor.
But this lighthearted tale of repressed sexuality and marital woes seems to have a different kind of agenda, even if it often fits the mode of your typical mainstream rom-com, with the usual run of quid pro quos, mistaken identities and botched wedding plans.
The story focuses on two thirty-something pairs: On the one side there’s the affable optician Weichung (Richie Jen), who’s been married for nine years to corporate clerk Feng (Mavis Fan, excellent). And on the other there’s Weichung’s sister, Mandy (Kimi Hsia), a sexy man-eater who’s decided to finally settle down and tie the knot with friendly sad sack San-San (Stone).
Of course, things are not so simple, starting with the fact that Weichung clearly has a past that’s far less straight than the bifocals he meticulously prepares in his shop. He crosses paths at his sis’ rehearsal dinner with a flamboyant wedding photographer (Lawrence Ko, hilarious) who, despite the fact that he’s also married, is leading a double life as a gay party boy, and advises Weichung to do the same. When a handsome young flight attendant (Hong Kong actor Wong Ka Lok) ventures into the man’s store, it’s love at first (near or far) sight, and although the stoic husband and dad tries to fight off his homoerotic urges, he can only hold out for so long.
Meanwhile, Mandy starts having second thoughts about her upcoming marriage, and they come to a head in a funny flashback that shows her freaking out during an all-too-routine shopping trip to Carrefour. She decides to ditch San-San and lock herself indoors, binging on instant ramen and cheesy soap operas until she can figure out whether she’s really in love at all.
Directing with an easygoing, occasionally swoony style, Chen cuts back and forth among the various characters as they deal with their quashed desires and emotional predicaments, with the main plot point pivoting on whether Weichung’s wife Feng, who is hoping to have a second child, will learn about her husband’s hidden sexual identity. The Mandy-San-San debacle is, on the other hand, a bit too cursory, and seems to be there mainly for comic relief and as a narrative framing device.
Indeed, more than anyone else, Feng seems to be the center of attention here, and the film inevitably wonders what she’ll do about the truth once she uncovers it. In other words, how can a society steeped in marital traditions deal with shifting cultural attitudes toward homosexuality? If Chen’s ultimate answer may seem like a copout to some, it’s perhaps less important than the fact that he’s raising the question at all, especially in this kind of carefree, commercially minded movie.
Filled with colorful street scenes and candy-tinged interiors (courtesy of DP Hsia Shao-Yu), Tomorrow reveals a Taipei that has rarely looked so jolly onscreen, and the film coasts along to its final conflict at a fairly brisk pace, even if there are a few longueurs along the way. Still, when Chen stops to let Fan belt out her own alcohol-infused version of the title track (written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin), it’s the kind of indulgence we can all enjoy.