Lynn Chen’s debut is an achingly honest tale of lost time and potential.
Music has the power to bring people together. That includes the lead characters of I Will Make You Mine, a trio of women all united by a connection to musician Goh (Goh Nakamura). This trio consists of Rachel (Lynn Chen), a married woman who’s carried a crush for Goh ever since they were close friends in High School, Erika (Ayako Fujitani), the ex-lover of Goh who’s dealing with the death of her father, and aspiring musician Yea-Ming (Yea-Ming Chen). Though Goh is the common element uniting these disparate plotlines, I Will Make You Mine is very much focused on Rachel, Erika, and Yea-Ming.
Lynn Chen’s directorial debut is about these three trying to navigate, in their own distinct ways, how their current lives don’t line up with their aspirations. The varying ways this problem manifests in the lives of its central characters provide some of the film’s most stirring moments, like Yea-Ming’s insecurity about her younger roommate’s accomplishments.
The script (penned by Chen) isn’t afraid to lay bare the unique vulnerabilities of each of its lead characters, nor is it afraid to place these individuals into some truly relatable pieces of human awkwardness. A scene where Rachel and Goh reunite in a motel room is an especially good example of the latter.
Chen’s screenplay has the disparate views these characters have of one another gradually emerge over the course of a conversation, underpinned by an uncomfortable ambiance that’s quietly palpable on screen. Character interactions like this one in I Will Make You Mine capture an impressive sense of unpolished realism. Such exchanges don’t come across as stilted scripted interactions, but all too real renderings of human awkwardness.
Such exchanges don’t come across as stilted scripted interactions, but all too real renderings of human awkwardness.
While Chen maintains that sense of messy realism across all the individual storylines, her writing doesn’t settle for repeating the same character dynamics over and over again. There’s a discernably different bond on display when Goh and Erika are interacting with one another compared to the endearingly warm rapport he shares with Yea-Ming. The latter is especially entertaining to watch thanks to their engaging chemistry.
The visual sensibilities of I Will Make You Mine aren’t quite as unique as Chen’s writing touches. Carl Nenzén Lovén and Bill Otto’s monochromatic color palette, heavy use of lens flares in flashbacks and camera angle choices tend to feel too derivative of other movies. This is especially notable when compared to Chen’s writing or the all-around great performances; it’s workmanlike, but unremarkable, which holds the rest of the film back.
Music can bring people together — and, given that the experience can lead to films as enriching as Chen’s debut, thank heavens it does.