May 26, 2020
by Carla Hay
Directed by Lynn Chen
Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles, the drama “I Will Make You Mine” has a predominantly Asian cast (with a few white people) representing the middle-class and upper-class.
Culture Clash: Three women have emotional ties to an aspiring musician, which sometimes leads to jealousy and mistrust in their relationships.
Culture Audience: “I Will Make You Mine” will appeal to people who like authentic well-written stories about people dealing with life issues as they approach middle-age.
The engaging drama “I Will Make You Mine” speaks authentically to issues about relationships, chasing dreams, and how people view themselves when some of their dreams don’t come true. Lynn Chen makes an admirable film debut as a writer/director in “I Will Make You Mine,” which is a sequel of sorts to two other films in which she had a co-starring role: 2011’s “Surrogate Valentine” and 2012’s “Daylight Savings.”
Dave Boyle directed and co-wrote “Surrogate Valentine” and “Daylight Savings,” which starred real-life singer/songwriter Goh Nakamura playing a version of himself as a struggling musician who plays folk-inspired rock music. According to the production notes for “I Will Make You Mine,” Chen got Boyle’s blessing to write and direct this movie when he told her that he had no plans to write and direct a third film to continue the storyline. (Chen and Boyle are also two of the producers of “I Will Make You Mine.”) Instead of the Goh character being the focus of “I Will Make You Mine,” the film’s story (which is set in Los Angeles) is told from the perspective of three very different women who are emotionally attached to Goh.
Chen reprises her character Rachel, who was Goh’s platonic best friend from high school. She is now married to a successful businessman named Josh (played by Mike Faiola), and they have an upscale lifestyle with no children. From the outside, it might look like Rachel is a pampered “trophy wife,” but the reality is that there are problems in the marriage because Josh cheated on her with his assistant. The infidelity has caused trust issues between Rachel and Josh, and they’re in couples counseling.
Ayako Fujitani returns as Erika Abe, the girlfriend who broke up with Goh in “Daylight Savings.” In “I Will Make You Mine,” Erika (who is a professor) and Goh now have an adorable 5-year-old daughter named Sachiko (played by Ayami Riley Tomine), but the couple has broken up again. Erika and Goh, who didn’t get married, are now living in Madison, Wisconsin. They’ve continued to live together after the breakup, for financial reasons. In “I Will Make You Mine,” Erika, Goh and Sachiko have returned to visit Los Angeles to attend the funeral of Erika’s widower father, who passed away in his sleep.
Singer/songwriter Yea-Ming Chen, who plays a version of herself in the film, is another returning character from “Daylight Savings.” Free-spirited Yea-Ming met Goh when they were touring musicians, and they became friends, but they lost touch with each other when he moved to Wisconsin. Now that all three women are in Los Angeles with Goh, they have to come to terms with their emotional attachments to him and how it will affect their lives.
People don’t have to see “Surrogate Valentine” or “Daylight Savings” to enjoy “I Will Make You Mine,” which is well-written enough to be its own stand-alone film. The movie’s dialogue and scenes flow with authenticity that thankfully doesn’t veer off into melodrama. Perhaps because all of the main actors have played these characters before, their acting style feels very natural in the movie. It’s also refreshing to see a movie that realistically shows how women can deal with complicated feelings over love and jealousy without portraying these women as catfighting caricatures.
Even though Erika and Goh are not a couple, she can’t but help but feel insecure about Goh’s deep and lasting emotional intimacy with Rachel, even though Goh and Rachel were never romantically involved with each other. (In a nod to “Surrogate Valentine,” the opening scene of “I Will Make You Mine” shows Rachel looking at Goh’s class photo in her high-school yearbook and his signed message, “Rachel, I will always be your surrogate valentine. Love, Goh.”)
Now that Goh is back in town, Rachel is starting to wonder if she married the wrong man. If Goh is Rachel’s soul mate/best friend, then should he also be her lover? She’s very tempted to find out. Meanwhile, Yea-Ming is happy to reconnect with Goh as a trusted pal and musician. They bond over writing songs and give each other suggestions. And there’s a possibility that Erika, who’s gotten tired of living in Madison, will move to Los Angeles permanently, since she’s applied for a job in the city. Will Goh want to move back to Los Angeles too?
Goh isn’t stunningly handsome or someone with an extremely charismatic personality. However, the movie shows that these women are attracted to him because, despite his flaws such as tardiness and sometimes being irresponsible, he’s a genuinely good man who treats them with respect. He’s also a devoted and loving father to Sachiko.
In “I Will Make You Mine,” Joy Osmanski has a cameo reprising her “Daylight Savings” character Amy, a wisecracking and cynical friend of Rachel who encourages Rachel to reconnect with Goh while he’s in town. Tamlyn Tomita also has a brief scene in the movie as Erika’s cousin Julia, who thinks it’s a good idea for Erika to move back to Los Angeles and tells her about the professor job opening.
Many filmmakers would have made a love triangle the focus of the story, but writer/director Chen gives “I Will Make You Mine” added emotional resonance to the film by addressing adult issues of doubt and regret over life choices. And having a funeral as the catalyst for these characters’ reunion causes each of them to reflect in different ways on how their own lives are going. Eight years after “Daylight Savings,” Goh, Erika, Rachel and Yea-Ming are at an age range (late 30s to early 40s) where they’re too young to retire but too old act like carefree teenagers.
The movie shows how each of these characters feel some kind of disappointment that their lives didn’t turn out the way that they thought it would. In a candid conversation between Goh and Yea-Ming, she tells him that she doesn’t feel fully grown-up because she’s still struggling financially—she works at a bar, occasionally performs in clubs, and gripes about having a much-younger roommate who makes more money than she does.
Goh tells Yea-Ming that although he hasn’t completely given up on music as his dream career, he’s had to put those dreams on hold and hide them from Erika, who thinks that being a musician is an unstable lifestyle choice. He has a day job in customer service, and he confesses to Yea-Ming that he secretly bought a cheap acoustic guitar, which he keeps in a storage room at his job, and he plays the guitar on his work breaks.
Erika, whose parents had a long marriage, is also feeling disappointed that she’s now single mother without a partner, even though she and Goh are co-parenting Sachiko in the best way that they can. Rachel, who used to be in an a cappella singing group in college, hasn’t even told her husband about her love of music, until he catches her looking at one of Goh’s YouTube clips. When he asks her who it is, Rachel doesn’t reveal how well she knows Goh, and she tells Josh that Goh is just “some musician” that she just “stumbled on” when she was on YouTube.
“I Will Make You Mine” also has light touches of humor that work well in the film. Rachel friend’s Amy provides some comic relief. And there’s a scene at the funeral where Goh performs an original song and he shows some of his social awkwardness. After getting some microphone audio feedback, he announces that he wrote the song for his uncle who died. (Not a good idea to say that at a funeral for someone else.)
Goh also says that he ended up selling the song to a pharmaceutical company, so if it sounds like a familiar ad, that’s why. The way this scene is written is realistically funny, because it shows the reality that many aspiring rock stars often have to pay their bills by writing jingles or selling their songs for corporate advertising. Speaking of music, the big showpiece song is “I Will Make You Mine,” the title track of Yea-Ming and the Rumour’s 2016 album, which Yea-Ming performs at the end of the film. Goh, who composed the film’s musical score, also does a very good with the original music in the film.
For anyone who saw “Surrogate Valentine” or “Daylight Savings,” watching “I Will Make You Mine” is a great way to catch up with these appealing characters, but from a fresh new perspective. And for anyone who hasn’t seen the previous two movies, “I Will Make You Mine” is a charming introduction to these characters and an enjoyable way to experience their world. Whether or not another movie is made with these characters, Lynn Chen is undoubtedly a talented filmmaker to watch and it will be interesting to see what she does next.
Gravitas Ventures released “I Will Make You Mine” on digital and VOD on May 26, 2020.