Review: Arvin Chen Strikes a Lyrical Tone with 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?'

by Jake Mulligan

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday June 17, 2021

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?  (Source:Frameline44)

"Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow": It's a great title, for one thing. It's also one of the best films I've seen on the festival circuit in a very long time. This Taiwanese picture, directed by the acclaimed Arvin Chen, deals with a loaded topic: A man, married to a woman with a child, coming to acknowledge and accept his own homosexuality. Yet it refuses to settle into histrionics or wallow in melodrama.

Chen composes the film in long takes that allow the emotions to be slowly drawn out, instead of clobbering the viewer with messages and themes. Chen allows you to watch feelings develop; he's making a broad film but he refuses didacticism at every turn. When his main character, Weichung (Richie Ren, who maintains a dignified reserve throughout the film, fully illustrating the social mores conflicting his conundrum), first begins to fall for his 'crush,' Thomas (Wong Ka-Lok), it's far from your standard meet cute. Instead, they simply talk - Thomas encounters Weichung at the glasses shop where he works - and we're left to infer the feelings that develop. There's no sweeping score or showy camera movements here - merely depiction. The agency that affords to the audience is quite rare.

Of course, that would mean nothing without strong performances. Ren's turn, simultaneously quiet and anguished, is the picture's anchor. But his wife, Feng, played with comparable reserve by Mavis Fan, gives the film its heart. Her character arc is the one we haven't seen much before: That of the anguished significant other, in love with a partner who can't desire her, torn apart both internally and externally (societal pressures are mainly represented via Fan's mother, who pressures the couple to have another child, but the general repression and societal stigma attached to homosexuality in the region hangs over the picture like a cloud).

The emotionally detached compositions and even-handed performances prevent the film from entering "soap opera" territory even when the script reaches its most melodramatic. The actors refuse to ever treat the picture as a genre effort - the script flirts with romantic comedy, but the film never gives into the tropes. Chen's camera matches their efforts, allowing us to interpret and read the themes presented in any way we like; the camera simply swoons, showing without telling. It allows the drama to graduate into something more. The tone Chen manages to strike instead is nothing less than lyrical.

"Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" screens at Frameline June 23