Living in two cultures isn’t easy. Neither is making a romantic comedy that will appeal to both cultures. But writer/director Alice Wu has done it with Saving Face.
Wilhelmina is first generation Chinese-American. She is single, living on her own, and on her way to becoming an accomplished surgeon in New York City. She’s also a mostly-in-the-closet lesbian. A fact only a few friends know.
Wil is also the daughter and granddaughter of very traditional Chinese immigrants. Her grandfather is a Professor and respected elder in the Chinese community of Flushing, NY. Her long widowed mother is a beautician who lives with and cares for her parents, and is determined to find Wil a husband.
Rather than come out to her family, Wil plays the role of the good daughter, dutifully attending the weekly social mixers at the Chinese social club where her mother introduces her to a variety of appropriate suitors each week.
All seems to be going along well, until the evening Wil’s mother shows up on her door step in tears and with luggage. She has been banished by her father. Turns out Ma is pregnant. And unwed. And 48. She has no intention of naming or marrying the father of her baby. Ma is determined to set up house with Wil and won’t discuss the baby at all.
Then Wil meets Vivian, a beautiful Chinese ballet dancer who pursues Wil openly. They being dating in secret – both because of Wil’s family and because Vivian’s father just happens to be Wil’s boss.
The more entrenched Ma becomes in her apartment the more Wil realizes she has to do something. She has to help her mother find someone to marry, so both her mother and grandfather can save face, and so Wil can get her own life back.