Monday, May 25, 2020

I Will Make You Mine: Lynn Chen Makes It a Trilogy

How many films can you make playing a meta-slacker version of yourself before it gets sad? Evidently, the answer two. After appearing in two pleasant indie comedies playing a likably schlubby version of himself, Goh Nakamura and his co-stars get more serious this time around. The first two largely well-received films (Surrogate Valentine and Daylight Savings) were directed and co-written by Dave Boyle, but co-star Lynn Chen assumed those duties as the driving force helming I Will Make You Mine, which releases tomorrow on VOD.

After the birth of his daughter Sachiko, Nakamura gave up on his performing career, accepting a stable but dreary customer service job instead. Yet, there is still tension between him and Sachiko’s mother, Erika. He will be joining her in Los Angeles to offer his dubious support while she arranges her father’s funeral. However, that will also offer him an opportunity to re-connect with Rachel, his one-time prom date, who has carried a torch for him ever since (even though she should be way out of his league).

Fortunately for the cash-strapped Nakamura, his old musical colleague Yea-ming invites him to crash at her pad. She also hopes to avail herself of his natural songwriting talents. Aside from his daughter, life has been disappointing for Nakamura, but all the women in Chen’s film still seem to be pre-occupied with him, which is kind of Woody Allen-ish (it’s filmed in black-and-white too).

Still, there is something refreshingly realistic about characters coming to terms with the repercussions of their decisions, as well as setbacks that were largely beyond their control. Nakamura remains a likable screen presence playing a meta-version of himself. Ayako Fujitani (who was so incredible in Boyle’s Man from Reno) portrays Erika with brutal honesty, yet surprises us in the third act with grace notes of understanding and compassion. Bay-area singer-songwriter Yea-Ming Chen is quite a charismatic performer on-screen, both musically and dramatically, but Joy Osmanski probably gets the biggest laughs in her brief appearance as Rachel’s hipster video-director friend, Amy.

Yet, young Ayami Riley Tomine regularly upstages everyone as Sachiko. That definitely includes Lynn Chen herself portraying Rachel, whose subplots are by far the most melodramatic and least credible. For those of us coming into the trilogy at the third film, it is hard to understand where all her heartsick angst is coming from.

Nevertheless, there is an unusual degree of maturity to I Will Make You Mine. Cineastes also have to feel for the film, since it was supposed to have a high-profile premiere at this year’s SXSW, but obviously the festival was canceled because of the Chinese Communist government’s cover-up of the Wuhan pandemic outbreak, perpetrated with the WHO’s collusion. After three films together, it is a shame the cast and crew could not enjoy the closure of walking a big festival red carpet. In fact, it really is a SXSW kind of indie. Small but nice, I Will Make You Mine is recommended for fans of indie and mumblecore-style relationship films, when it releases tomorrow (5/26) on VOD platforms.