High Five: Romance Movies from Southeast Asia that you should watch

Here are SEA Wave’s High Five picks for romantic Southeast Asian movies to watch this Valentine’s Day.

by Matthew Escosia
SEA Wave - Romantic Southeast Asian Movies
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By: Patricia Yap


Whether you’re spending Valentine’s Day with someone or just by yourself this year, you definitely can’t miss out on spending it with a good romance movie! But instead of going for the classic Hollywood titles, why not go for the Southeast Asian ones? As much as we are the kings of horror, we’re also certified experts on kilig.

Without further ado, here are SEA Wave’s High Five picks for romantic Southeast Asian movies to watch this Valentine’s Day.

One More Chance (2007) – Philippines

One More Chance is an icon in Philippine cinema. Starring two of the most popular stars in the country, John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo, the film tells the ups and downs of a couple, and how a newfound chance for reconciliation proves that that their love will trump over the biggest challenges. From quotable lines to classic scenes that tugs the heartstrings of many, One More Chance remains one of the most successful Filipino films of all-time, even having an equally profitable sequel years after in A Second Chance.

A Crazy Little Thing Called Love (2010) – Thailand

One of the most popular romance movies in Thailand, if not, the world, “A Crazy Little Thing Called Love” is a teen love story that you can watch over and over again without ever getting tired of. Although the plot is extremely direct where the timid and “ugly” high school girl does everything for the popular and handsome high school boy to notice her, it is exactly this direct and basic plot that makes it win people a million times over.

This is because apart from its outstanding delivery and execution, A Crazy Little Thing Called Love reminds us of what falling in love for the first time feels like—innocent, exciting, confusing and genuine.

Mat Biec (Dreamy Eyes) (2019) – Vietnam

Mat Biec, better known as Dreamy Eyes, is a story that perfectly captures true love combined with the emotions that come with it that we’d rather not experience. Following the story of Ngan and Hà Lan, childhood friends that never took the chance to tell each other how they feel. The pair realize their mistakes after decades through what can only be expressed as an unexpected source.

Unmistakably, this recent movie from Vietnam, which even won the Best Picture Award (Golden Lotus Award) at the 22nd Vietnam Film Festival, will make you feel both love and hurt as you’ve never felt before. In a nutshell, Dreamy Eyes explores what it’s like to love and to never have lost that love.

Sepet (Slit-Eyed) (2005) – Malaysia

For those who want to feel kilig and butterflies, yet simultaneously want something a little more thought-provoking, Sepet is definitely the movie for you.

Set in Ipoh, Malaysia, Sepet is the story between teenagers Orked and Ah Loong who have almost everything in common, except for their ethnicities. With Orked being Malaysian and Ah Loong being Chinese (sepet meaning slit-eyed in Malay), this film by the late Yasmin Ahmad powerfully blends Malaysia’s unique and complicated mix of culture and language into a sweet and heartbreaking story of young love.

Ada Apa Dengan Cinta (What’s Up with Love?) (2002) – Indonesia

This is another one of those movies where opposite kinds of people fall in love. In Ada Apa Dengan Cinta or What’s Up with Love?, the simple story of how Cinta, the popular girl, and Rangga, the invisible boy, fell in love, unfolds. The problem, however, is that Cinta wants to keep her budding feelings for Rangga a secret amongst her close group of popular friends.

Now, don’t be fooled by the commonplace plot. As cliche and straightforward it may seem, What’s Up with Love? juggles the two protagonists’ love along with the relationships surrounding them (friends and family), and this enables the story to build up into a much richer and more complex narrative that will leave audiences questioning the difficult choices in their own lives.

Fun fact: The word “Cinta” in the title is a clever play on the character Cinta’s name, which means “love”. Hence, the translation of Ada Apa Dengan Cinta into “What’s Up with Love?”

That’s it for this High Five list, so if you’ve never given Southeast Asian romance movies a chance, this is your sign to do so right now.

Although some of the movies on this list may seem quite simple, what’s worth watching and remarkable about each of them is how they are able to introduce the idiosyncratic Southeast Asian experience into the life and development of the characters and narrative.

Got any opinions on these movies? Let us know in the comments below!

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