Saving Face (2004)

Saving Face (2004)

A landmark feel-good lesbian rom-com turned Asian American family drama, all from first-time feature filmmakers

The Very Best

8.0

Movie

United States of America
English, Mandarin
Comedy, Drama, Romance
2004
ALICE WU, FEMALE DIRECTOR
Ato Essandoh, Brian Yang, Brittany Perrineau
97 min

What it's about

A Chinese-American lesbian and her traditionalist mother are reluctant to go public with secret loves that clash against cultural expectations.

The take

Before the late 2010s push for more Asian American and lesbian cinema, there were movies already making strides toward better representation. One of the first to achieve this was Saving Face. Despite this film being the first feature for writer-director Alice Wu and actress Lynn Chen, and the first lead role for Michelle Krusiec, the three women lead the film with ease. Wu’s clear mastery of rom-com and family drama tropes directs us through some predictable moves, but with unpredictable twists. Krusiec and Chen’s Wil and Vivian are easy to root for with their striking chemistry, but at the heart of this film is Wil’s relationship with her mom Hwei-Lan (Joan Chen). Their dynamic—expressed through passive-aggression, bilingual bickering, and their need for the other’s honesty—turns this easygoing rom-com into a light yet cathartic family drama.

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