By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
Two passing ships in the night, a sun allergy, and comfort food. It may not sound like the ingredients to a romantic film, but they make up the ones found in “Comfort” — a movie now available on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.
Written by filmmaker, director, and writer William Lu, “Comfort” is a charming story that follows two characters who are both a little lost in their lives. Actor Chris Dinh plays Cameron, a lonely, mild-mannered late-night courier who’s complacently roaming the streets of Los Angeles at night, even though he harbors big dreams of becoming a chef.
Through a serendipitous meeting on the job, he meets Jasmine. Played by actor Julie Zhan, Jasmine is the feisty, passionate daughter of an entrepreneurial businessman and she’s expected to take over the family business. Like Cameron, Julie isn’t happy with the direction of her life or her familial obligations.
The theme of comfort
As its namesake might suggest, comfort plays an important role in the film. It comes in obvious references, such as the comfort foods Cameron and Jasmine eat, to more abstract and less obvious examples.
“[The film] has to do with comfort food and the comfort of home, but it’s also about how being comfortable can be the one thing that’s actually counterproductive,” said Dinh. “As people, we are constantly struggling between ambitions and the everyday reality where things are already comfortable. Being comfortable is being your own worst enemy.”
Dinh’s character Cameron is an example of this. Viewers meet Cameron in a state of complacency where he isn’t living to his full potential. Though their interaction is brief, Cameron and Jasmine learn from each other, bringing the other out of their respective comfort zones through understanding and encouragement.
“Sometimes, you really do meet these impactful people — someone who’s meant to change the course of how you’re living and set you on the right path,” said Dinh. “And that might be it. There’s no ‘happily ever after’ but maybe that’s exactly what it’s meant to be.”
How the story came to life
Dinh and Lu first met in the mid-2000s at a wrap party for one of Lu’s short films. The two chatted and connected over what was then Lu’s rough draft for “Comfort,” which immediately resonated with Dinh.
“[The story] made me smile,” said Dinh. “I thought, ‘That actually sounds like a small film that I’d like to watch.’ It was a story that made me feel good.”
Although they lost touch after, the story stayed with Dinh for years to come. Then, one night, Dinh thought of the script and reached out to Lu, asking if he had ever finished it. Lu hadn’t and even credits Dinh with being his “Jasmine” — that is, the person who prompted him to get outside of his comfort zone and actually finish the script for “Comfort.”
“I’m a romantic at heart,” said Lu. “I wear my heart on my sleeve and I always knew that I wanted to make a story about my values: do good, be kind to others, and maybe good things will happen to you.”
Making a film with an Asian American male protagonist was also important to Lu. “There is this notion out there of what Asian American masculinity is and it doesn’t match how I see the world … it was important to have an Asian American male lead who can be a romantic interest for someone.”
In fact, one of the most notable aspects about “Comfort” is how the cast is predominantly Asian American, but the characters are not specifically bound by race in any way.
“There is a tricky line here,” said Lu. “As a filmmaker, I’ve wanted to tell stories with people that look like me. If you’re too didactic or preachy with the writing, you’re shouting to your audience. I wanted these characters to speak for themselves and let audiences experience the film. The only conscious decision [about using Asian characters] was to make things not seem so conscious.”
“In the end, it does affect the film overall,” said Dinh on using Asian American actors in lead romantic roles. “The fact that more filmmakers are taking that chance — not just with Asian Americans, but having diverse actors in general — I appreciate that. We’re the result of what happens when one of those filmmakers takes a chance on diversity, especially knowing the climate of the industry today.”
On the horizon
With its festival circuit completed, Lu said the film will continue to release on additional digital platforms in the coming months. There is also talks of taking “Comfort” on an academic tour. The team is currently reaching out to University of California campuses with large Asian American student bodies in hopes of igniting discussion with college students about the film and other relevant issues.
“Right now, we’re just trying to get more eyes on the film,” said Lu. “If any campuses wish to participate, let us know!”
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.