Our Rating: ★★★★½
L Factor: Lesbian Film
Short Take: In a Chinese-American family, both mother and daughter have secret loves that ultimately bring them closer together.
Alternate Titles:
Year: 2004
Duration: 96 min
Language: USA/English
Director: Alice Wu
Writer: Alice Wu
Starring: Michelle Krusiec, Joan Chen, Lynn Chen

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Saving FaceFinally a lesbian romantic comedy that’s just plain great! First time director Alice Wu has created wonderful characters and a very touching story in the context of cultural taboos. It wowed viewers at Sundance and is one of those dvds that you shouldn’t miss.

Wil (Michelle Krusiec) is a young New York surgeon who dutifully attends events with her conservative mother and grandparents in the Chinese American community. She is a lesbian, but puts up with her mother’s matchmaking attempts, playing the role of good daughter.

All of this changes when Ma (Joan Chen, What’s Cooking, Wild Side), who is unmarried, becomes pregnant and is thrown out of her parents’ home as a disgrace. She lands on Wil’s doorstep, all of a sudden no longer accepted by her traditionalist friends either. At the same time Wil tries to find her mother a husband, she falls in love with Vivian (Lynn Chen), a beautiful ballet dancer.

Wil struggles with her responsibilities at the hospital, keeping her relationship a secret from her mother, and spending time with Vivian. Both mother and daughter have secret loves that ultimately bring them closer together. When her daughter encourages her to stand up and love the man she wants, even if it isn’t culturally accepted, Ma accepts her daughter’s sexuality as well. With her mother’s support, Wil is finally able to be herself with the woman she loves.

Wil and Vivian make a great couple, Wil a bit gawky, Vivian more sophisticated, but sweet and loving. Joan Chen almost steals the show with a very funny and sly performance as Ma … and both mother and daughter find happy endings, something so often missing in films with lesbian or bi characters. (AB)