3 Best Movies to Watch by Joan Chen

Staff & contributors

Before the late 2010s push for more Asian American and lesbian cinema, there were movies already making strides toward better representation. One of the first to achieve this was Saving Face. Despite this film being the first feature for writer-director Alice Wu and actress Lynn Chen, and the first lead role for Michelle Krusiec, the three women lead the film with ease. Wu’s clear mastery of rom-com and family drama tropes directs us through some predictable moves, but with unpredictable twists. Krusiec and Chen’s Wil and Vivian are easy to root for with their striking chemistry, but at the heart of this film is Wil’s relationship with her mom Hwei-Lan (Joan Chen). Their dynamic—expressed through passive-aggression, bilingual bickering, and their need for the other’s honesty—turns this easygoing rom-com into a light yet cathartic family drama.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ato Essandoh, Brian Yang, Brittany Perrineau, David Shih, Hoon Lee, Jessica Hecht, Jin Wang, Joan Chen, Lynn Chen, Mao Zhao, Michelle Krusiec, Pamela Payton-Wright, Ruth Zhang, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Twinkle Burke

Director: Alice Wu

Rating: R

During wartime, war supersedes everything, including love. Wartime would have people ending relationships, forgoing potential dates, and seducing enemies to lead them to downfall, all in order to win, but sometimes, this rarely goes as planned. Lust, Caution is one such story, with the novella’s emotional repression making it a great match for director Ang Lee, main actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai as Japanese informant, and main actress Tang Wei, who made her breakthrough here. It’s not an easy watch. There are moments that falter and the film is a tad too long. But the smoldering stares shared by the two leads, with the lush production design and the beautiful direction, makes Lust, Caution a difficult contemplation of love and sexuality as Wang’s, and the nation’s, double-edged sword.

Genre: Action, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Akiko Takeshita, Anupam Kher, Cheng Yu-Lai, Chih-ying Chu, Chin Ka-lok, Chung Hua Tou, Hayato Fujiki, He Saifei, Jacqueline Zhu Zhi-Ying, Joan Chen, Johnson Yuen, Johnson Yuen Tak-Cheung, Kar Lok Chin, Ko Yu-Luen, Lawrence Ko, Lawrence Ko Yu-Luen, Lee Hom Wang, Leehom Wang, Lisa Lu, Liu Jie, Saifei He, Tang Wei, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Tou Chung-Hua, Tou Tsung-Hua, Ven Kao, Vince Kao, Wang Lin, Wei Tang, Yan Su, Ying-hsien Kao

Director: Ang Lee

Rating: NC-17