What it’s about: American screenwriter Alan Yang’s debut feature film is a multi-generational tender family drama focusing on a young Taiwanese immigrant, Pin-Jui, who relocates to America for the classic American dream, only to find out decades later, that it’s hardly what it’s commonly made out to be. Now an older man decades later and stuck in a loveless marriage and thankless job, he seeks to rebuild the life he once dreamed of.
Who’s in it: Hong-Chi Lee plays the lead, alongside the legendary Joan Chen, Yo-Hsing Fang, Kuei-Mei Yang, Kunjue Li, and Fiona Fu.
Why watch it: If you’re a fan of the award-winning comedy series Master Of None, good news – Yang was the co-creator behind the series. But that’s besides the point; in a time where racist tensions are boiling the world over especially for anyone of “Asian” descent, Yang’s tender love letter showing the difficulties that Asian immigrants face feels particularly poignant and timely.
When it’s available: April 10
Howl’s Moving Castle
What it’s about: A mad, if picturesque hodgepodge of a steampunk romance story, Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the most complex Studio Ghibli works in terms of visuals and storylines. Set in a vaguely 19th century European setting, there’s the protagonist Sophie, who’s cursed and transformed by a witch into an old woman, and her protector/employer Howl, a vain wizard who melts literally into a puddle of goo when she accidentally mixes up his hair dye. Somewhere along it all, they’re caught in a war between two hostile kingdoms, magical fire demons, sentient scarecrows and missing princes. Yup, it’s a lot to take in.
Why watch it: If Howl’s Moving Castle feels a tad all over the place as compared to the narratives of other Ghibli works, well you can at least indulge in the eye-popping imagery – the clanking moving castle itself is a marvel of imagination; steampunk meets Enid Blyton, with traces of Narnia-esque magic. Besides which, Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki himself once called this his favourite work.
When it’s available: Out now
Whisper of The Heart
What it’s about: Middle schooler Shizuku Tsukishima is an aspiring writer but finds herself falling into a state of ennui when her talents – and ambitions – seem to outpace what little life experiences she’s accrued so far.
Why watch it: Whisper Of The Heart is one of the most under-appreciated works in the extensive Studio Ghibli oeuvre – and we suspect it’s because the film is one of the most grounded in terms of storylines; there are no grand creatures or monsters to battle (or befriend) as has become customary with some of the more high-profile Ghibli works, though there are what we call small pockets of magic instead. It’s a seemingly ordinary coming-of-age tale but it exquisitely and tenderly expresses the hopes and dreams of young talents on the cusp of adulthood. Watch if you’re feeling jaded with life and working from home – it might just revive the long-buried dreams of youth.
When it’s available: Out now