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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

I Will Make You Mine - Movie Review


The Movie: I Will Make You Mine

The Director: Lynn Chen

The Cast: Lynn Chen, Yea-Ming Chen, Ayako Fujitani, Goh Nakamura, Tamlyn Tomita, Joy Osmanski, Mike Faiola, Ayami Riley Tomine

The Story: Three women wrestle with life's difficulties while confronting their past relationships with the same man.


The Review:
A little backstory on this movie before I get into my review. I Will Make You Mine is considered to be the third installment in a trilogy of films, the first two having been directed by Dave Boyle. Those films, Surrogate Valentine and Daylight Savings, tell a fictionalized story of real life musician Goh Nakamura who is featured in all three films alongside co-star Lynn Chen. The second installment, Daylight Savings sees the addition of Yea-Ming Chen, also a musician playing a fictional version of herself, and Ayako Fujitani to the cast as additional love interests in Goh's increasingly complicated love life.

This leads us to the third installment which sees Lynn Chen taking over as writer and director while maintaining her on screen role in the movie as well. In fact, all four primary characters are back and Chen gives the audience an opportunity to see their lives come back together years later and also from the female perspective versus the previous movies that focused more on Nakamura's journey. All three films are presented in black and white which gives a very intimate and natural feel to the story and performances. At this point I will tell you that I have not watched the first two films so, moving forward, this review is solely based on I Will Make You Mine.

My first thought after watching the movie is that I really want to see the other films so I can dig into these people's lives and better understand their intertwining stories. I will say though that it shouldn't be required to see them all as this movie definitely stands alone as a great film. Lynn Chen does a fantastic job of weaving through the stories as the characters flow in and out of each other's lives and the performances she gets from everyone are just phenomenal. I really enjoyed how each of the three women are fully realized and unique human beings and Chen gives each of their stories a chance to breathe and develop which is very refreshing.

[UPDATE]
So, I've now watched the trilogy all the way through and I have to say that I appreciate the finer details in Chen's writing even more and how much she references back to moments and themes from the first two movies. While I really enjoyed the first two films and loved getting to know the characters, I have to say that I Will Make You Mine is a superior film in just about every way and that is in no way a knock on those movies, I really enjoyed them. I feel like the characters were even more fleshed out and understood as human beings and one other thing I noticed is how Chen added a couple intimate details to Rachel that are only apparent if you know a bit of her own personal story. She put so much heart and thoughtfulness into every detail.

That being said, the story and the characters still fit seamlessly into the overall narrative and pays everything off beautifully. By the time the credits roll, there are zero loose ends or questions. After I watch a movie, I always try to pay attention to how it made me feel and in this instance the movie made me feel like an adult and it made me feel like that is okay. Okay to be an adult who has made mistakes and has missed opportunities in life. Okay to learn and adapt and create new possibilities from those experiences and to choose acceptance of who we have been, who we are, and who we want to become.

It's obvious in the story telling that Lynn really cares about these characters and wants to give them all a sense of completion and a real world version of a Hollywood happy ending. Goh is so relatable on a personal level that I kind of think both Lynn and Goh were looking directly at me when they pieced together who he is and I feel a little attacked by how much it all hits home. Seriously though, the subtleties of Goh's performance are quite brilliant and even as the focus is shifted to the women in this movie, I don't feel like he was treated any less.

Something I didn't know until Lynn had actually mentioned it during my interview with her is that Tamlyn Tomita makes a brief appearance in the movie and I have no idea how that slipped past me. The reason this is significant is because, and this is me admitting something from way back in the day, I had a bit of a Hollywood crush on Ms Tomita after seeing her as Daniel's love interest in Okinawa in The Karate Kid II. I know she's been in a ton of stuff since then but she will always be Kumiko. Okay, let's get back to the original review before I embarrass myself any further.

Oh, one final thing. I just mentioned my interview with Lynn. Here it is.


[UPDATE OVER]

One of my favorite things about the movie is the list of songs that are sung by Goh and Yea-Ming and how their musical backgrounds and expertise as song writers add such a natural flow to everything. Within the context of the story, each song has meaning and moves the plot forward and I am so in love with the scenes where the duo are literally creating songs in the moment. This is where the intimacy and authenticity of the movie really shines through and you can tell that, while the characters have known each other for a long time, so have the actors and even Lynn herself has such a fluency in her direction, it's all just beautiful and perfect.

As a first time feature director, I feel like Lynn Chen had an awful lot to say about women, about being Asian in America, about relationships, about getting older, and about the female perspective on love and just life in general. A lot of these topics are things that don't get explored very often in cinema so this adds a level of importance to the film as well. There is also a definitive sense of completion to the story for each of the characters and I can't wait to go back in time to see how it all started in the other films. If these are the types of stories that we are going to see from Chen in the future, I am going to need to know where I can sign up to be first in line for all of it.


The Verdict:
I Will Make You Mine will make you fall in love with story telling, with cinema, and with a film maker that I believe is just getting started. This movie not only completes the Surrogate Valentine trilogy, it makes the other two films better.  In a year that so far has been quite a bit different from any we have experienced during our time, this movie easily stands out as 2020's first truly great film.


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