5 Best Movies to Watch by Greta Lee

Staff & contributors

The concepts of roads not taken and domino effects have received plenty of cinematic attention in their showier forms by way of multiverse comic book movies and dimension-hopping films like Everything Everywhere All At Once. But, though there’s no hint of sci-fi in Past Lives, Celine Song’s gentle film can count itself as one of the best treatments of that universe-spawning question: “what if?”

When her family moves from Seoul to Canada, teenage Na Young bids a loaded farewell to classmate Hae Sung and changes her name to Nora. Years later, they reconnect online and discover the spark still burns between them. This is no idealistic romance, though: Past Lives is told with sober candor. Song acknowledges real obstacles standing in the way of a relationship between the two — those pragmatic (distance) and, more painfully, personal (evolving personalities, American husbands).

Those two threads — unrealized romance and the transmutation of identity that so often takes place after migrating — are expertly entwined in Past Lives to produce a sublime, aching meditation on memory and time, practical love and idealistic romance, and all the complex contradictions that exist in between. That Song communicates so much and so delicately in only her first film makes Past Lives all the more stunning.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: An Min-yeong, An Min-young, Chang Ki-ha, Chase Sui Wonders, Choi Won-young, Emily Cass McDonnell, Federico Rodriguez, Greta Lee, Hwang Seung-eon, Isaac Powell, Jack Alberts, Jane Yubin Kim, Jay Karales, John Magaro, Jojo T. Gibbs, Kristen Sieh, Moon Seung-a, Moon Seung-ah, Park Jun-hyuk, Seo Yeon-woo, Shin Hee-cheol, Teo Yoo, Yim Seung-min, Yoon Ji-hye

Director: Celine Song

Rating: PG-13

Some films struggle to balance style with substance, but Problemista isn’t one of them. It’s brandished with Torres’ unique brand of surrealist aesthetic, which is colorful, freakish, and fun, while also accurately relaying the pains of coming to and making it in America as an outsider. We see Alejandro accept increasingly debasing gigs as he runs out of time and money in the deep maze that is America’s immigration bureaucracy. And all the while, he’s being both genuinely funny and painfully incisive. Torres is not the first person to point out that in this day and age, the monsters we face are overbearing employers, greedy bankers, and exploitative companies, but he just might be one of the few to do it with such imaginative grace.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Amy Zimmer, Bardia Salimi, Brian Belovitch, Carlos E. Navedo, Catalina Saavedra, Charlene Incarnate, Eudora Peterson, Glo Tavarez, Greta Lee, Greta Titelman, Isabella Rossellini, Jack P. Raymond, James Scully, Jason Furlani, Jordan Mendoza, Julio Torres, Kelly McCormack, Laith Nakli, Larry Owens, Logan J. Alarcon-Poucel, Megan Stalter, Miles G. Jackson, Paul Cooper, Roman Maldonado, Ronald Peet, Ruba Thérèse Mansouri, RZA, Sandra Caldwell, Shakina Nayfack, Sheila Moikangoa, Spike Einbinder, Theo Maltz, Tilda Swinton

Director: Julio Torres

Rating: R

In this comedy/drama, Bill Murray plays an aged, dispirited war veteran named Vincent who openly disdains most people and gives little attention to anything beyond alcohol and horse racing. Living a life of solitude in Brooklyn, everything takes a turn when a young single mother (Melissa McCarthy) and her son Oliver move in next door. Vincent eventually takes on the responsibility of watching over Oliver when Maggie is at work. Murray is perfectly unpleasant in his darkly comedic role, as his relationship with Oliver evolves despite his own misgivings, providing young Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) with the fatherly/grandfatherly presence he desperately needs. Though somewhat formulaic, St. Vincent rises above expectations by way of great dialogue, favourable performances from all of the leads, and an unbelievably touching finale that will melt your heart. Much better than you probably expect—definitely check this one out.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexandra Fong, Amber Clayton, Ann Dowd, Bill Murray, Brenda Wehle, Brian Berrebbi, Chris O'Dowd, Chris O'Dowd, Dario Barosso, David Iacono, Deirdre OConnell, Donna Mitchell, Elliot Santiago, Frank Wood, Greta Lee, Jaeden Lieberher, Jaeden Martell, James Andrew O'Connor, Jeff Bowser, Josh Elliott Pickel, Katharina Damm, Kerry Flanagan, Kimberly Quinn, Lenny Venito, Maria Elena Ramirez, Maria-Christina Oliveras, Melanie Nicholls-King, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Nate Corddry, Niles Fitch, Orlagh Cassidy, Portia, Ray Iannicelli, Reg E. Cathey, Ron Bush, Ron McLarty, Scott Adsit, Terrence Howard, Tim Wilson

Director: Theodore Melfi

Rating: PG-13

Nadia is a game developer and proud aging hipster living in New York. Her story starts at her thirty-sixth birthday party looking at herself in the bathroom mirror. On her way out, she finds a friend who hands her a joint laced with cocaine, “that’s how the Israelis do it” her friend says.

Nadia hooks up with a guy and they stop at a bodega on the way back to her place. So far everything seems normal (in a New York-hipster kind of way). But on her way out of the bodega, she is hit by a car and dies. The story restarts, at the same birthday party, staring at herself in the mirror.

Russian Doll can be summarized in what Nadia screams later that night: “the universe is trying to f*ck with me, and I refuse to engage”. Her strong personality and the events that happen to her allow the show to explore themes of vulnerability, trauma, and even life and death. Russian Doll repeats almost every episode, but its originality and plot twists make it more refreshing with every repeat.

This rhythm takes some quick getting used to, but the moment you do you will not be able to look away. Natasha Lyonne from Orange is the New Black is masterful at playing Nadia. She co-created the show with Amy Poehler and Sleeping With Other People director, Leslye Headland. She packs a lot of the originality and character that possibly makes Russian Doll the most fun and original show you will watch in 2019.

Genre: Comedy, Mystery

Actor: Brendan Sexton III, Brooke Timber, Charlie Barnett, Chloe Sevigny, Dascha Polanco, Elizabeth Ashley, George Aloi, Greta Lee, Jeremy Bobb, Jes Davis, Natasha Lyonne, Rebecca Henderson, Whitney Devlin, Yul Vazquez

Rating: TV-MA

It's not that being similar to another, successful, animated franchise is a bad thing, but The Tiger's Apprentice hurries to practically every plot point without properly establishing its setting, its characters, or their relationships. It all means well, and once you get used to its lower production values, it becomes clear that the film has a distinct visual personality that it makes pretty good use of—especially during its kinetic fight scenes. But too much of the movie ultimately feels like a blueprint that hasn't had the details filled in yet. It becomes difficult to feel anything when the film doesn't give you a chance to sit with any one moment (like, you know, the death of an important character) for too long.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Bowen Yang, Brandon Soo Hoo, Deborah S. Craig, Diana Lee Inosanto, Greta Lee, Henry Golding, Jo Koy, Josh Zuckerman, Leah Lewis, Lucy Liu, Michelle Yeoh, Patrick Gallagher, Poppy Liu, Raman Hui, Ryan Christopher Lee, Sandra Oh, Sherry Cola, Tan Kheng Hua

Director: Raman Hui

Rating: PG