There're so many types of reviews for a film with such enormous historical expectations to lift , carry the vast emotions of the Asian diaspora, and weighty expectation from readers of the popular book of the same title. I could give so many types of reviews from that of a sterile template review to the emotional ventilation of decades of being unseen and unheard to that of its strong rom-com merits which single-handedly lift the genre from dead to #1 to one about its storyline being so . It's even harder given the 100s here and the many everywhere across the Internet, so I review from my heart and less from a sterile perspective which professionals have well covered.
I've only been to the cinema twice (Skyfall, The Dark Knight) in 15 years and I've only done do so for films whose action nature prefers the cinematic experience instead watching nearly only streaming documentaries in that time, but this one spoke to me initially for explicit commercial support of kicking down the door which has denied us for so long but see it sweetly added the heartfelt pain of seeing so many of my experiences dramatized on the big screen, sharing it with so many others who've seen and felt it with me, knowing that this is a historical lift for our community, and the thrill of this said representation happening.
I spent an hour crying for so many reasons: the incredible writing that tells the carefully nuanced drama in marriage, Asian filial piety (mother-son relations); the high drama of the screenplay and the source material (from the best-selling book of the same name), excellent highlighting of the story and acting with the soaring rendition of "Yellow" by Katherine Ho and the powerful rewriting into Mandarin re-appropriates a former racial slur now defanged. The overdue need to tell the stories of the uniquely Asian-American experience are not only better for the art and thus better for commercial success but also uplifts the individual AAPI who've long suffered underneath disparagingly narrow stereotypes which have narrowed our perception by Americans and all those victims of its wide cultural reach. The stereotypes will end and we will have our voices heard for the many colorful varied stories that we live. That is how better filmmaking will occur in the Asian-American corner of the Asian diaspora.
Those who worried the conversion from a coveted beloved novel to a Hollywood-backed version including myself, no such concerns exist anymore. One can feel the very intricate weaving of many cultures far beyond just East-West but also the tons of Southeast Asian ones with more callouts to Cantonese, Hokkien, Nam-Kee, Malay, and other Straits ones all acknowledged in the film. For those who love the world and its many peoples, this element will thrill. In food, in language, in clothing and architecture (Peranakan!), everything lifts the varied stories that make the world a more interesting place to live and which are real human stories, too.
The casting choices are sterling. Citing examples would require repeating the lengthy casting list as even 1-liner roles like Victoria Loke as Fiona Cheng, Eddie Cheng's not-vain-and-snark wife, are brilliantly cast and can never get sufficient air time. May their characters' stories be told in due time, even if decades later in other formats. The casting of the leads is a natural which viewers can see and the countless press tour videos show the cast has a real, natural vibe that stems from such perfect casting. This kind of human connection is both great skill in acting and also a real connection born from the drama that is life.
The love story to Singapore is heartfelt because its food is indeed THAT amazing (I say this even as a Taiwanese whose homeland is its perennial food tourism competitor with a similar night market culture), the excellent fluid combination of East meets West audible in the equally confidently English-Mandarin soundtrack, and the green sterling scenery born of the famously high standards of architecture and personal conduct.
There're trivial complaints that it's not all things to all Asians, doesn't represent everything in Singapore, doesn't tell every Asian story, Henry's not Asian enough (a crude rude complaint by angry Asian dudes who I disavow as not credible misguided not-men), etc. to which I say, this is just 1 of an infinite number, it proudly doesn't tell every single story because it's huge role in kicking down the door which was closed to us for so long is why those other stories will be told, so unless you're actually going to take action to build those other houses, your criticism is not credible.
Go see it.