The newest Netflix rom-com has finally ditched Europe to find love in Asia

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadMay 04, 2023 | 16:32

The newest Netflix rom-com has finally ditched Europe to find love in Asia

A Tourist's Guide To Love explores Vietnam and an Asian male lead. Photo: Netflix, Multiple

Hollywood has been warming up to more Asian representation since Netflix's To All The Boys I've Loved Before. And it seems the clichéd Hollywood travel romance involving a white American woman travelling to a foreign country (often in Europe) is also embracing diversity. Netflix's romcom A Tourist's Guide To Love is among those embracing an Asian lead in an Asian country. 


A Tourist's Guide To Love dropped on Netflix on April 21. Directed by Steven K Tsuchida and written by Eirene Donohue, both Asian-Americans, the movie stars Rachel Leigh Cook as the protagonist Amanda Riley and Scott Ly (who's also Asian American). 

The quintessential travel-based romcoms like My Big Fat Greek Wedding have mostly focused on a white woman travelling to a European country and falling in love, mostly with a white man. Some exceptions are movies like Eat Pray Love where the white woman travels through Asian countries, but once again falls in love with a white man. 

In A Tourist's Guide To Love, we see the white American woman falling in love with an Asian man - a tour guide in Vietnam - albeit who had an upbringing in the US - while travelling to an Asian country. 

The plot

Rachel Leigh Cook and Scott Ly as Amanda and Sinh. Photo: Netflix

A Tourist's Guide To Love tells the story of an LA travel executive Amanda Riley who travels to Vietnam on bleisure (business + leisure) after a breakup. She's also undercover on her job to recee a small family-owned Travel Company that her company Tourista World Travel hopes to acquire. 

Set in Vietnam

It seems like the movie is keeping up with the latest travel trends. Several Asian destinations are now at the top of the list for travel, something that was mostly occupied by European destinations.


According to Tripadvisor, the world's largest travel guidance platform, Vietnam is ranked second among the top trending destinations for 2023. Thailand and Cambodia also make it to the top 10 trending list, while Dubai steals the spot for the Popular Destinations category. Is it because European destinations are so crowded that they are unbearable? Throw in all the summertime flight chaos, and you have an answer perhaps.

A Tourist's Guide To Love's Vietnam backdrop seems more like a travel advertisement, with little to no time given to the viewers or the protagonist to soak in the destination or the culture. When it comes to the romance between our leads, the treatment is the same. Amanda gets little to no time to herself to discover herself after a breakup, any time to appreciate the culture (at least it doesn't come across on the screen) or show the emotions of her words on how Vietnam changed her. 

Stills from the movie. Photos: Netflix

The movie mostly hops from one place to the other, rarely giving the viewer or the protagonist any time to experience the scenes, culture or interaction. The other characters in the movie include those who are on the same group tour - an elderly white British couple on their delayed honeymoon, an African-American lesbian couple with their daughter, and a young white vlogger. Amanda has practically no interaction with the members; and as viewers too, we don't really spend much time with the characters. 


The story is straightforward and the plot is entirely predictable. We see some culture shock, like crossing the road and bargaining and probably that's about it. A Tourist's Guide To Love doesn't exude the same charm as Eat Pray Love, which was set in various Asian locations including India and Bali, Indonesia. But it does avoid falling in the trope of showing Vietnam as a "third-world country".  

The Asian male lead 

Photo: Netflix

Traditionally it is rare to have Asian, or Asian American leads in Hollywood. It is only with movies like To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Crazy Rich Asians, Everything Everywhere All At Once, and Last Christmas, that we are getting to see more lead characters of Asian ethnicity. 

At the same time, there is now an uptick in lead characters of other ethnic backgrounds like Indian (Never Have I Ever, Bridgerton Season 2) in Hollywood productions.   

If you know Hollywood, then you'll know that it has always been hesitant to cast Asian men as lead characters or romantic interests. More often than not, you'll find Asian male characters (hardly in the lead) in Hollywood to be depicted as asexual and emasculated. It was hard for Hollywood makers to show romance between a white woman and a non-white man (take the example of Mean Girls). 

Being sexy was something only reserved for white male characters. But you will see in A Tourist's Guide To Love, our leading man Sinh Thach bare his abs, wits and sexiness and kiss the protagonist. While the movie fell short of casting a Vietnamese actor to play the role of Sinh Thach, it has other characters played by popular Vietnamese actors - like Nsut Lê Thien (who plays Sinh's grandma Ba Noi) and Quinn Truc Tran (who plays Sinh's cousin).

Quinn Truc Tran as Sinh's cousin. Photo: Netflix

Geroge Clooney and Julia Roberts starring in Ticket to Paradise is another such movie that also has the combination of an Asian country backdrop (Bali) and a white woman falling in love with an Asian man, though they are not the main characters.  

Nonetheless, it is intriguing to see a Hollywood production set in an Asian country.

Netflix's XO, Kitty, a spinoff of To All The Boys, is also one to look forward to as it takes our main character Kitty Covey Song to South Korea to find love and more. Romcoms may be brushed aside, but they are important in wielding the power of love and the idea of bringing together two people on the opposite spectrum of personalities, countries, cultures, and politics. And believe me, Vietnam is quite a nice break from the overdone fictional European kingdom (here's looking at you, Netflix Christmas movies).

Last updated: May 04, 2023 | 16:32
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