Sometimes, being confronted with reality can be painful. That can be especially true for people who like to think of themselves one way, and get a rude awakening when they get a look at the real thing. That’s what happens to Sylvia and Luke, the couple at the heart Yes, We’re Open, an independent comedy set in San Francisco. The film is frank about sex and relationships, but does paint with a pretty broad brush.
Sylvia (Lynn Chen) and Luke (Parry Shen) seem like the most liberal couple amongst their friends. They have a good life, get invited to nice dinner parties and read all the right articles and books. Both of them – but especially Luke – like to think of themselves as terrifically open-minded about everything, but especially their relationship. That’s soon tested, however. An encounter with another couple at a dinner party, Elena (Sheetal Sheth) and Ronald (Kerry McCrohan) confronts them with the real thing. The new couple is in an open relationship, and both spouses are suddenly tempted by the new couple, who promise to awaken an intimate life that’s grown pretty dull. They talk briefly about the possibility of opening up their own relationship, even as they seem afraid to talk about the issues that might be going on with their current status. Going through with it, however, proves to be more difficult than either party imagined, and the couple must take a look at themselves and where the relationship is really going.
Yes, We’re Open looks professional for a movie produced on a tiny budget. Director Richard Wong obviously knows San Francisco well, and knows ways to make the goings on in the film look good for not much money. Of the main group of actors, Chen’s performance stands out. Sylvia fulfils the more traditional breadwinner role in the couple, since Luke works from home. But it’s also clear she’s unsatisfied with the way things are, even if she doesn’t say them. Sheth’s performance is also good, especially in a scene where she has to deliver some hard truths to Luke. Among the supporting performers, Tasi Alabastro came off as the most fully realized. In terms of plot and dialogue, the film matures a great deal as it moves along, and by the end, it’s clear that the film takes these issues very seriously, and handles them in a mature manner.
The issue, however, is what it takes to get to that point. So many of the things the couple says, especially Luke, come off as being written to fulfill a checklist of hot-button topics as a way of seeming more topical, and they seem shoehorned into the dialogue. Shen’s performance seems to go a little too over the top in some places, especially in the seduction scenes, which are also filmed in a strangely slapsticky way that seems at odds with what the film becomes in its last 20 minutes or so. Luke is a boor, but he and his wife seem to be the only ones on screen who don’t recognize that. Many of the supporting characters are given almost no characterization beyond simply needing to be people for the main characters to bounce dialogue off of. The abrupt shift to the more mature handling of Sylvia and Luke’s relationship near the end of the film seems all the more jarring because it’s handled so differently earlier. It’s also difficult to really root for the couple, since the two, as a pair – and Luke especially — don’t exactly seem like the most likable people to have around.
But, for a smaller feature, Yes, We’re Open does provide some nice laughs, and perhaps a perspective that audiences haven’t seen much of before, both as a film primarily starring and created by Asian-Americans, but also because open relationships between long-term couples don’t happen much in mainstream films. There are some serious issues with the film, but there’s also enough to recommend it, based on the way it and its characters grow.