Asian cinema doesn't believe in happy endings

My sister suggested I watch “Lust, Caution” directed by Ang Lee while she was reading my manuscript. She said there were some similar themes in the movie to my story. I finished watching it two nights ago and still find myself thinking about it. The movie was a period piece set in Shanghai during World War II. Extremely emotional and, of course, very depressing.

When was the last Asian film you saw with a happy ending? Other than Jackie Chan? We seem to love the desperate and tragic twists to life. Everyone suffers and everyone dies.

Don’t get me wrong. It really was a beautiful movie. Gorgeous. Moving. The type of story that makes we want to write something with the same emotional depth, but just give it some hope and happiness at the end.


  1. Victoria Janssen
    Jun 18, 2009 @ 15:11:35

    I remember being totally shocked when I saw “The Replacement Killers” because at the end, Chow Yun Fat is just walking through the airport. I waited for the hail of bullets that would leave him lying in a pool of his own blood. Nothing, nothing, nothing, he kept walking, end credits. I think it was the first time I’d seen him in a movie where he survived. Maybe it was because the movie was for an American audience.

  2. Jeannie
    Jun 18, 2009 @ 15:30:38

    Victoria, your comment made me laugh out loud because I totally know what you mean! Chow Yun Fat was probably amazed too.

  3. Jax Cassidy
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 14:16:50

    I grew up watching a lot of Asian soaps and movies…it’s like they model their stuff after Greek tragedies so I stopped watching. But you know, here’s our chance to showcase ethnic h/h and prove that happy endings is the way to go…or I would hope 🙂

    Hey, I’ll keep trying as long as I’m writing!

  4. Jeannie
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 21:20:15

    My Little Sis joked that my tagline should be “Asian stories with happy endings.” Uh oh…that might have a double meaning in the romance world.

  5. Jax Cassidy
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 21:51:29

    But that tagline would garner lots of interest! It’s all about the marketing! Hehe

  6. Victoria Dixon
    Jun 22, 2009 @ 13:05:20

    YES, YES, YES! See, this is one of the many reasons why I chose to revamp “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. Everyone just dies off, one by one and China falls into ruin for two or three centuries. I chose to go with the “What if Bei had followed through with his vengeance for Guan Yu?” idea and everything sort of fell into place. Which isn’t to say I have a happy conclusion. I have one friend who said I still punched her in the gut in the last paragraph, but who wants Disney to invade Chinese literature? Not me.
    Jeannie Lin, I tracked you back down in here. (Obviously.) Now that I have a blog, I was hoping to set up a reciprocal blog with you. Are you willing?
    Love your color and graphics, by the way. You’ve got it feeling luxurious, romantic and so very Chinese.

  7. Dara
    Jun 22, 2009 @ 13:08:18

    LOL, I honestly can’t think of any…the last Asian film I saw was extremely depressing. It was called “Raise the Red Lantern.” The worst part was that the ending seemed to suggest the like the vicious cycle was going to happen again. Good movie but horribly depressing.

    The more I think about it, even the famous animated film “Spirited Away” has a bittersweet ending, especially in the original Japanese version (in the dubbed English one, it has more of a positive open ending but in the Japanese one it’s bittersweet).

    Wait, I think there was one I remember. It was called “The Hidden Sword.” It’s a Japanese film. I believe it actually had an open ending that leaned more towards a “happy” ending.

    My sis and I often say the same thing–many Asian films, even some anime, have an open ending or tragic ending to them.

  8. Jeannie
    Jun 22, 2009 @ 14:11:11

    I never cried so hard as I did when watching “Grave of the Fireflies”. Japanese anime hits pretty hard sometimes.

    I think the happiest you can hope for is bittersweet. 🙂