Five Asian-led films to watch if you liked ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’
Putting the spotlight on Asian cinematic excellence from South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, and Singapore.
For her performance in the film Everything Everywhere All At Once, Michelle Yeoh made history at the Oscars on Mar 12 in Los Angeles (Mar 13, Singapore time) as the first Southeast Asian to be awarded Best Actress at the Academy Awards.
Her achievement is yet another example of Asian-led films gaining international prominence in recent years. Aside from Everything, other films such as Parasite (2019) and Drive My Car (2021) also earned themselves multiple nominations and even some wins across various categories at the Oscars.
As Academy Award-winning director Bong Joon-ho once said, Asian cinema has much to offer “once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles”.
If you’re looking to watch more films that are created by or star Asian creatives, here’s a list to get you started!
1. After Yang (2021)
Created by the production house that made Everything, After Yang tells the story of a couple who live with their adoptive daughter and robotic child. When the titular robotic child Yang’s operating system malfunctions, the family embarks on a journey to repair him.
The film interrogates our perceptions of family and relationships, has tremendous heart, and keeps viewers at the edge of their seats. While the science fiction setting of the film is reminiscent of Everything, this film focuses more on androids.
The film is directed by South Korean-born American filmmaker Kogonada, and stars Korean American actor Justin H. Min and Indonesian American actress Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja among their lead cast.
2. Decision to Leave (2022)
Decision to Leave is a South Korean romance mystery film that tells the story of a detective (Park Hae-il) who finds himself falling in love with the main suspect in the murder investigation he leads (Tang Wei), and is torn between feelings of distrust and love for her.
The complex relationship between the main leads and their electric chemistry makes it an intriguing yet emotional watch.
The film was shortlisted for Best International Feature Film at the 2023 Oscars, and won Park Chan-wook the trophy for Best Director at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.
Those who were captivated by Evelyn and Waymond’s arthouse-style love story within Everything will find this film to be right up their alley, as Decision to Leave has been regarded as Park’s ode to legendary director Wong Kar Wai’s romance films of the early 2000s.
3. Happy Old Year (2019)
Thailand isn’t only a horror film powerhouse but has also proven its ability to create emotional romantic drama films like Happy Old Year.
Starring Chutimon “Aokbab” Chuengcharoensukying and Sunny Suwanmethanont, the film revolves around a woman named Jean (Aokbab) who attempts to declutter her family’s home, but finds difficulty in leaving behind items that belonged to her boyfriend (Sunny).
While definitely more understated than Everything, Jean’s complex and relatable character makes the film a must-watch, and Aokbab’s captivating performance puts her up there among great female leads like Everything’s Evelyn.
Happy Old Year is available to stream on Netflix.
4. Four Sisters and a Wedding (2013)
For more complicated Asian family dynamics akin to the Wang family’s, look no further than Four Sisters and a Wedding.
The film centres around four sisters who return to the Philippines and devise a scheme to foil their youngest brother’s marriage plans.
Starring an ensemble cast of some of the Philippines’ most prolific actors, the film is filled with a mix of drama and laughs. Despite the tonal shifts, the story strikes a balance between wacky character archetypes and the poignant difficulties of familial relationships.
5. Tiong Bahru Social Club (2020)
The list would not be complete without a modern Singapore classic.
The black comedy film follows Ah Bee (Thomas Pang) through the titular Tiong Bahru Social Club, a project to create the happiest neighbourhood in the world.
Tiong Bahru’s aesthetic looks like something inspired by Wes Anderson films, with bright colour palettes, symmetrical framing, and eccentric characters. As young Singaporeans, it’s not hard to recognise the ways the film satirises daily Singaporean life and values.
Aside from serving as the opening film at the 2020 Singapore International Film Festival, Tiong Bahru was also screened at the 20th New York Asian Film Festival. Proudly reppin’ that Singapore creativity on a global scale!
Tiong Bahru Social Club is available for streaming on Disney+.