4 Best Movies to Watch by Yang Li-yin

Staff & contributors

All the synopses going around the internet won’t fail to let you know that The Falls takes place at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. The film is certainly marketed that way, with commercial posters featuring the leads in ubiquitous face masks, socially distanced from the blurred crowd. 

But interestingly, The Falls is not just a situational, pandemic-era story. More than anything else, it tells the story of Pin-wen and Xiao Jing, mother and daughter who, despite previously living a life of comfort, are now dealt with unfavorable circumstances (exacerbated but not entirely caused by the pandemic). Now, they are forced to navigate life with only each other, and it’s in the isolation they instate from the rest of the world do they forge a genuine and heartwrenching bond any and all family members will immediately recognize and perhaps even sympathize with. 

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Alyssa Chia, Chen Yiwen, Gingle Wang, Guan-Ting Liu, Huang Hsin-Yao, Kuan-Ting Liu, Lee-zen Lee, Liang-Tso Liu, Shao-Huai Chang, Shau-Ching Sung, Tiffany Hsu, Waa Wei, Yang Li-yin, Yi-Wen Chen

Director: Chung Mong-hong

Rating: Not Rated

Slow and almost silent, Edward Yang’s second feature film pins us down in a fast-moving city. In 1980s Taipei, Chin and Lung are childhood sweethearts who try to build a life together, but differences between their wants threaten to pull them apart. Chin bravely adapts to the changes she faces—moving house, shifting jobs, etc.—while Lung misses his promising baseball career and prioritizes familial debt. Through their relationship, the film captures the anxieties of a generation pulled between new Western consumerism and old Asian familial obligations. Watching the two lovers feels like being lost in a cold urban city, unable to move and not knowing where to go.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Chen Shu-fang, Chin Tsai, Grace Chen Shu-Fang, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Ko I-chen, Ko Su-yun, Lin Hsiu-ling, Mei Fang, Tsai Chin, Wu Nien-Jen, Yang Li-yin

Director: Edward Yang

Rating: Not Rated

Based on co-writer Wu Nien-jen’s experiences, Dust in the Wind is a bittersweet coming-of-age story about lost love. The two sweethearts, Ah Yuan (Wang Chien-wen) and Ah Yun (Hsin Shu-fen), move out of their rural hometown to try to make a life in Taipei. Through day-to-day glimpses of the life they’re trying to make, it’s easy to root for their love in the beginning. As they go through the struggles of daily life, the lovers seem to glow only in each other’s presence, thanks to the gorgeous cinematography from Mark Lee Ping-Bin. However, love isn’t enough. Outside circumstances threaten their love, such as poor healthcare, theft, and the military draft. Director Hou Hsiao-hsien refuses to let us recognize this at the immediate moment, though. Like Yuan, the weight of each moment hits us belatedly, and it’s only in the end when he can’t do anything, that we realize it.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Grace Chen Shu-Fang, Hsin Shu-Fen, Lawrence Ko, Li Tian-Lu, Yang Li-yin

Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien

Rating: Not Rated

Dear Ex is a family drama that explores LGBT+ issues in contemporary Taiwan. As much as it is a movie about how people cope with loss, it’s a powerful, heartwarming, and intimate portrait of the relationship between Jay and Song Zhengyuan and all the obstacles they face.

While the themes of Dear Ex are heavy, the director makes the viewing experience easier for the audience thanks to humorous and witty dialogue. Meanwhile, the history between Jay and Song Zhengyuan’s relationship unfolds in a very beautiful, almost poetic way, and by the end of the movie, we understand that everyone gets their own kind of forgiveness. The way the characters effortlessly show that love is something beyond genders is admirable, and it is great to see how everyone gets their own kind of forgiveness whether it's from themselves or from others by the end of the movie.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ai-Lun Kao, Clover Kao, Danny Liang, Fang Wan, Hsieh Ying Shiuan, Hsieh Ying-xuan, Hsin-Ling Chung, Hsu Chih-yen, Joseph Huang, Mag Hsu, Roy Chiu, Spark Chen, Ting-Chien Wu, Yang Li-yin, Ying-Xuan Hsieh

Director: Chih-Yen Hsu, Hsu Chih-yen, Mag Hsu

Rating: TV-MA