Asian Persuasion is an unconventional tale of Filipino-Americans Mickey de Los Santos (Dante Basco) and his ex-wife Avery Chua (KC Concepcion). Mickey, a struggling chef, desperate to alleviate his hefty alimony burdens, devises an outrageous plan to find a new spouse for his ex-wife. Through a fake internet dating profile and the assistance of his trusted Korean-American wingman (Kevin Kreider), Mickey’s queer plan was seemingly working. That was until he soon began to realize he desires a second chance with Avery.

Asian Persuasion
Kevin Kreider and Dante Basco (Credit: Asian Persuasion Trailer Screen Grab)

This eccentric film would be Jhett Tolentino’s first foray into directing. Considering his background has largely been the production of Broadway shows (winning three Tony Awards and a Grammy at that), I had very little expectations for the movie. This transition from theater producing to film directing isn’t without precedent either; Harold Prince—most known for producing legendary plays such as West Side Story (1957) and Phantom of the Opera (1986)—also tried film directing. His films, however, received, at best, mixed reviews. With this in mind, my expectations were lower.

Jhett’s directorial debut was, at least, able to meet those expectations.

KC’s portrayal of her character was phenomenal. Her presence was felt, not in a grand manner, but more in subtlety and nuance.

Right out of the first few scenes, Jhett’s theater influence is very much felt. The interactions between the actors felt more in place in a theater play than a film. In theater, performances often embrace a heightened reality, where dialogue, emotions, and actions may be more dramatic, poetic, or larger-than-life. This isn’t what you’d expect in a film. In a film, even in comedy, scenes are more grounded, and lean more towards realism than stylized interpretations such as in theater.

In Asian Persuasion, the interactions were more of a stylized or intensified version of reality. To put it simply, the dialogues and the screenplay just felt… inauthentic.

Speaking of screenplay, according to the writer, Mike Ang, this would also be his debut film script. Unfortunately, it also shows. I say this because I find it hard to blame seasoned actors such as Dante Basco, KC Concepcion, and Paolo Montalban for the seemingly overly dramatized interactions.

However, this is not to say the film is bad. Far from it. The film had several highs, one of which was KC Concepcion’s performance.

Asian Persuasion
Paolo Montalban and KC Concepcion (Credit: Asian Persuasion Trailer Screen Grab)

I did say earlier that the interactions between the actors felt inauthentic, but KC’s portrayal of her character was phenomenal. It was clear that she was really committed to her role; and every time she was on screen, her presence was felt, not in a grand manner, but more in subtlety and nuance. She was in fact the most emotionally engaging character in the film. This would be a bit ironic for me, considering that KC’s character, Avery initially felt like a mere plot device that only served to drive Mickey’s character arc.

Another commendable performance would be Scarlett Sher who played the role of Mickey and Avery’s young daughter, Sam. She was delightful on screen, and her expressiveness was captivating. She did a wonderful job in bringing the character to life, especially considering that her character’s role was somewhat limited.

One more highlight would be the soundtrack of the film. The soundtrack did an incredible job in creating the film’s atmosphere. It complemented the visuals, enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal of the film. The diversity and originality of the soundtrack was also impressive, and according to Jhett, he himself personally DM’d the artists through their IGs—all of them Asians.

Above the performances however, and probably above everything else, is the main goal of the film—which is Asian representation. This I believe, the film does very well.

During the Q&A at the press screening of the film, Dante Basco, in’s question on what representation means today, stated that as opposed to how Asian stories were told or represented in the last couple of decades (which were primarily by white men), Asian Persuasion is a story told through the lens of Asians. It is a film that is based on the experience of Asians, told by Asians.

Jhett Tolentino didn’t shy away from stating that this is exactly what he wanted to do with his film. From the cast and crew, to the soundtrack, to the choice of filming locations—this film is like a love letter to Asian-American, especially Filipino-American, culture. The film authentically and respectfully represented the diverse aspects, stories, and experiences within the community through its genuine storytelling.

All in all, the film is a good watch. It’s a film with a universal theme, but with a quirky story, played by characters who happen to be Asians—and that for me is the strength of this film; that it’s a good film that just so happens to be directed, written, produced, soundtracked, cast, and funded by Asians.

5 crowns: a must-see
4 crowns: excellent
3 crowns: good but not great
2 crowns: just about watchable
1 crown: avoid at all costs

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