Happy Valentine’s Day! When we think of this romantic occasion, chocolate, fancy dinner and nice presents are often inevitable. However, one essential element to make this day even more memorable is a great movie. In recent years, there have been plenty of impressive AAPI romances, like “Always Be My Maybe” and the “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” series. But this Feb. 14, we want to introduce you to some lesser-known, but still binge-worthy flicks. We hope you’ll adore them as much as we do, whether you’re spending today with a significant other, friends or yourself.
1.“Tune in for Love” (2019)
This Netflix original about a fateful love story will have every loyal K-drama fan swooning. Mi-soo (Kim Go-eun), a full-time student and Hyun-woo (Jung Hae-in), a former juvenile delinquent, first meet in a bakery where they later become co-workers and friends. As they become closer, timing interferes and pulls them apart, creating a will-they-won’t-they romance that spans years. Amidst their eventful relationship, the only constant that guides the couple and leads them to happiness is the radio show “Yoo Yeol’s Music Album.” This movie is perfect to enjoy with your loved one(s), and you can even get a glimpse into Korea’s fascinating radio culture.
2. “Seoul Searching” (2015)
This movie takes place in 1986 and centers on a Seoul summer camp for foreign-born Koreans. Through the lens of six main characters, the film explores what it means to be Korean. While “Seoul Searching” isn’t exactly revolutionary for a rom-com, it’s the characters’ individual development that shines through. Prepare to laugh, shed some tears and overall to have a great viewing experience.
3. “3 Idiots” (2009)
A classic Bollywood movie, “3 Idiots” is a journey of reunion among three former college friends who met at an Indian engineering university. Besides offering rich social commentary, we get to see how these three “idiots” deal with familial issues and expectations when it comes to finding the loves of their lives. Will they succeed? Will they get the happy ending they deserve? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out. Above all, “3 Idiots” is a great testament to friendship and the idea that “All izz well,” so get ready to enjoy this excellent work with friends and don’t forget to hug them afterwards.
4. “In The Mood For Love” (2000)
Wong Kar-wai has long been known for creating abstract yet meaningful stories about life, so if you want to contemplate and ponder, watch “In The Mood For Love.” Two neighbors reluctantly become close after discovering their respective spouses have had an affair. In order to understand their motives, Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) and Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) pretend to be their own partners, and thus start a relationship. While the previous movies in this list follow mostly young adults, “In The Mood For Love” shifts the attention to a middle-aged couple and shows us the paradoxes of loneliness and morality.
5. “Song Lang” (2018)
Leon Le’s feature directorial debut takes us back in time to 1980s Vietnam, where an opera singer and a debt collector find themselves thrown together by coincidence. The film pays tribute to a sadly somewhat obsolete art form—Vietnamese opera—and shows us that love can come from the least expected places. The recipient of 26 international movie awards, “Song Lang” is sure to captivate your heart and mind.
6. “Us and Them” (2018)
What color is love? A complicated question, but you’re sure to get the answer after finishing “Us and Them.” The movie alternates between a present and past narrative, in which two individuals reflect on the romantic relationships they’ve had over the years, from being college undergraduates to becoming established professionals. In addition to the main romantic narrative, “Us and Them” gives us an emotional perspective into parental love—one that we don’t seem to cherish until it’s gone.
7. “Sunny” (2011)
In a similar vein to “3 Idiots,” “Sunny” is about a group of middle-aged Korean women who come together to fulfill a friend’s dying wish of seeing her group of close friends one last time.The film celebrates dynamic female friendships, and lets us reflect on awkward first love experiences. Ultimately, “Sunny” gives all of its female characters the space to explore their full potential, which they might not have had a chance to do when they were young. This movie is best for a girls night in, where you can groove along to the iconic soundtrack.
8. “Nhắm Mắt Thấy Mùa Hè (Summer in Closed Eyes)” (2018)
Set in the mesmerizing town of Higashikawa, “Summer in Closed Eyes” brings together Ha and Akira, two 35mm film photography enthusiasts. As Ha gradually discovers secrets about her family and her identity, she also learns about Akira’s past. When their relationship is put to the test, they explore various solutions to preserve their romance, despite struggling with a language barrier. This production is a joint effort between a Vietnamese director and a Japanese producer, and we look forward to seeing more collaborations among Asian creatives to come.
9. “The Handmaiden” (2016)
While the American public is slowly appreciating the Korean film art after “Parasite”’s historic win at the 92nd Academy Awards last weekend, one of its predecessors has already been critically acclaimed worldwide. The movie follows a Korean woman who is selected for a fraudulent scheme to trick a Japanese heiress out of her inheritance. This film is suspenseful; although not a traditional love story, it still has all the key elements. The winner of the 2018 BAFTA for Best Foreign Language Film, “The Handmaiden” is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.
10. “Dear Ex” (2018)
Just in time as Taiwan recently became the first Asian country to legalize marriage equality, the indie film “Dear Ex” celebrates a beautiful queer love story. The film portrays the reality of LGBTQ+ romance in a society where sexuality is still taboo, so that a man and his partner have to keep their love a secret until one of them passes away. Beyond that narrative, “Dear Ex” also depicts the struggle of a woman and her child after losing their husband and dad, showing the coping mechanisms of a single parent and her journey towards empathy.
At the Unforgettable Gala last December, we also asked AAPI stars about their fave Valentine’s Day flicks. Check out their answers here.