A bittersweet relationship and wild ventures into troublesome sexuality and complex cultural background are the backdrop of this American production directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Ray Yeung. Ryan Fu (Jake Choi), a gay fashionista living in busy New York, is offered a job to style upcoming Bejing star Ning (James Chen) based on his Chinese heritage. The two seem to come from very different worlds: Ning is a proud nationalist, with a core belief on China’s visibility around the world, whereas Ryan conceals his background – he used to work his parents at a nail salon.
Seemingly homophobic, Ning rejects Ryan’s candid attitude towards his own sexuality, using cultural differences as an argument for the fall of their working relationship. Far from being completely established, Ryan knows his job is at risk when his feisty boss Francesca (Sonia Villani) dismisses his complaints and forces him to turn the situation around. Ning slowly adapts to Ryan’s attitude when, during a photoshoot, racial slurs fly out of the window. This unexpectedly draws both men together, perhaps due to some sort of complicity of their own demons.
A ‘coming-out’ game for both parties, you could easily mistake it for another simple-minded approach in a ‘gay boy meets straight boy’ bait. That is not to say the film entirely dodges the subject of gay estigmatisation. For instance, when Ryan affirms himself as a top – despite his effeminacy – during a failed hook up on a phone app. Sexuality is a complex and often treacherous zone, and it doesn’t neatly fit into the bigoted “no fems” and “no Asians” stereotypes.
The story takes a different turn when Ryan’s parents (Elizabeth Sung and Ming Lee) inadvertently assume both men are dating. The tender love of a mother and the subdued but supportive behaviour of a father are a great given opportunity for the director to guide us through three different generation’s struggle for acceptance. It is, however, the true highlight of the film, with awkward, yet tasteful and naïve moments. Front Cover is a step the direction of tolerance, casually telling us of the problem of the camouflage in our culture and/or sexuality, and the natural embrace of pertaining people and elements.
Front Cover opened this week in US cinemas. You can find out more about screenings in Europe and overall distribution information on Strand Releasing page here.
And you can watch the film trailer here: