Beyond Henry Golding’s Romantic Versatility

His pulsating charisma coupled with a sustained retention of mega mainstream currency is a match made in movie heaven.
Henry Golding in Snake Eyes

Henry Golding plays Snake Eyes in Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins from Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Skydance.

Welcome to Filmographiesa column for completists. Every edition brings a working actor’s resumé into focus as we learn about what makes them so compelling. In this entry, we spotlight the filmography of Henry Golding.

Henry Golding became an irresistible sensation practically overnight. The British-Malaysian actor found his original niche as a television host of variety and travel shows. His initial casting as the intoxicating love interest in Crazy Rich Asians then immediately put him on the map as an immaculate leading man.

Golding’s follow-up ventures have since engendered particular excitement. His invaluable presence in mainstream projects is a solid testament to the necessary diversification of Hollywood talent. Furthermore, his slate demonstrates a concerted effort to develop a brand past his polished debut.

In this breakdown of his film work thus far, we examine the actor’s innate magnetism, celebrating the true potency of his allure.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

All eyes fall on Henry Golding as Nick Young in Jon M. Chu’s glitzy Crazy Rich Asians. Handsome, carefree, and disarmingly charming, the character’s familial relation to the film’s titular moneyed elites grants him significant celebrity status.

Not that being the target of absurd surveillance and intense gossip from the masses even seems to bother Nick. One only wishes he was more forthcoming about his unusual circumstances with his girlfriend — protagonist Rachel Chu.

The advantages of Nick’s birthright leave him unaware of Rachel’s struggle with identity — a personal crisis that he patently never has to experience. Golding’s earnestness feels the most troubling when Nick and his megawatt smile reinforce the immense privilege that solely comes from his sheltered upbringing.

Truthfully, the otherwise likable Nick is a symptom of the trope-reliant elements of the story. However, Golding’s overall performance is endearing enough to temper both that critique and the fact of his blatant shortcomings within the plot itself. Beyond suaveness, his heartily open demeanor ensures that Nick’s sentimentality is genuine.

A Simple Favor (2018)

A Simple Favor gladly punctures more holes in Henry Golding’s bona fide affability. His portrayal of the uninspired author Sean Townsend in Paul Feig’s mystery-thriller banks on urbanity and sensuality. That said, Golding’s performance also marinades in distrust.

Sean often showcases an effortlessly prepossessing nature, sweeping the unsuspecting off their feet. Contradictorily, many around him — such as his disillusioned breadwinner wife — actually question his strength and depth of character.

Golding attunes us to Sean’s dubiousness through a committed personification of these heightened archetypal traits. He never gets literally over-the-top, but the character can feel suffocating. More often than not, Sean tries too hard to enchant and appease. His mollifying behavior reeks of self-interest.

Feig’s twisty narrative ends up being a fascinating vehicle for Golding’s abundant charisma. The winsome actor gets to douse himself in compelling eeriness that maintains narrative tension. He keeps us invested in the odd, darkly comical shenanigans of the movie.

Monsoon (2019)

Hong Khaou’s woefully underrated Monsoon is a stirring palate cleanser in Henry Golding’s scintillating resumé. The languid, purposeful drama examines generational trauma and third culture through a delicate lens of modern-day self-reflection.

The film’s apprehensive, ruminative lead, Kit (Golding), travels to Ho Chi Minh City. He hasn’t been there in 30 years — not since his family fled to Britain during the fallout of the Vietnam War. Now, Kit retraces the steps of fleeting memory in a time of grief, hoping to reconnect with a country and culture he once called home.

I have no qualms with calling Monsoon Henry Golding’s best movie. Khaou’s sensitive, unflinching direction not only fortifies his candidness and empathy — it implores audiences to parse the quintessence of his finely tuned restraint.

Golding is so indelibly multifaceted without ever theatricalizing the inherent melancholy of the plot. It’s not that he isn’t charming in the movie either. Rather, Golding eschews the conspicuous comfort of prior and subsequent characters to depict a tentative yet ravenous man in search of belonging.

The taut awkwardness permeating Golding’s powerhouse performance evinces its palpability. The actor takes us on a heady journey of reconciliation, dazzling us with intentional simplicity.

Last Christmas (2019)

Henry Golding re-teams with Paul Feig and embodies his most virtuous character to date in Last Christmas. There is “coincidence,” and there’s whatever the hell happens in this holiday flick involving the abrupt fated connection between Emilia Clarke’s lead and Golding’s dashing love interest.

Kate (Clarke) randomly spots Tom (Golding) bird-watching outside the quirky Christmas-themed store where she works. In no time at all, the duo conveniently falls into an adorable dynamic of flirty banter.

In old-school rom-com fashion, the bubbly Tom endeavors to draw a pessimistic, derisive Kate out of her shell. An immediate breezy spark blossoms between Golding and Clarke, who frequently find themselves in tried-and-true tête-à-têtes that are so darn lovable.

On his own, Golding is so unbelievably mesmerizing he feels like he stepped right out of a ’90s film. The actor amplifies his recognizable amiability to illustrate Tom’s sanguine, beatific qualities.

Cynics — including Kate — may consider him strange at first. But Tom’s sincerity primes us for painful dramatic revelations that thread this tale of self-acceptance, love, and reinvention together.

Indeed, viewers must first relent to escapism to get the most out of Last Christmas. Once we do, we can trust Golding and his co-stars to guide us through this lively feel-good adventure with zeal.

The Gentlemen (2019)

If anyone needs help deromanticizing Henry Golding, spending just one second with his truculent mobster in The Gentlemen should do the trick. Guy Ritchie’s definitive return to his crude crime comedy roots centers on a booming marijuana empire up for sale. Golding’s oddly-monikered Dry Eye is but one of many gangsters looking for a piece of the dope pie.

The movie follows a bunch of tough guys who vary in levels of shittiness. These dudes leverage abhorrent actions and a slick way with words to emerge as top-dog.

Dry Eye sits on the decidedly terrible end of this spectrum. The volatile hooligan is easily the most loathsome character. Smarmy, violent, and outright cruel, Dry Eye clearly fancies himself a debonair new-world criminal fit to overthrow a dusty old guard.

The character provides Golding with a fantastic opportunity to go against type. He proves that he doesn’t need to be genial to be engaging, consistently holding his own going toe-to-toe with a star-studded cast.

Golding shocks and disturbs us with his exuberance in The Gentlemen — a thoroughly impressive and superbly entertaining feat that sits in stark, welcome contrast to his prior merits.

Snake Eyes (2021)

Unfortunately, many aspects of the G.I. Joe origin story Snake Eyes do not gel. None of them have to do with Henry Golding directly, though. He assumes the role of the eponymous assassin called to action by shadowy organizations worldwide. In the process, Snake Eyes (real name unknown) must confront his traumatizing past and forge long-term alliances, for better or worse.

Despite being widely recognized as a stoic, silent figure in the G.I. Joe universe, the character is reimagined as a fraught, sarcastically chatty youngster in the film. This version of Snake Eyes is still inured and intense. Nevertheless, he remains prone to showing a human side, especially with those who have won his hard-earned trust.

Golding is proficient in exhibiting Snake Eyes’ physical capabilities. I’m frustrated that the overall messy cinematography prevents any legitimate judgment of his precise skill level.

But the actor shines the brightest when capturing the requisite shielded vulnerability, especially when he shares the screen with Andrew Koji. The latter steps into the shoes of Snake Eyes’s closest comrade.

Golding and Koji’s chemistry should be everyone’s main impetus to sit through the entirety of Snake Eyes. The pair often trades personal anecdotes rife with soul-baring honesty. The movie’s technical and tonal inconsistencies are held together by their electrifying screen presences.

Additionally, the kinship effectively tests the moral dualities typically found in other iterations of Snake Eyes. Considering that Golding is set for a comeback in the G.I. Joe franchise, he is laying crucial foundational work that could make or break the rest of this confusingly interminable superhero series.

Star Wars: Visions (2021)

Henry Golding dips his toes into voice-acting in a unique extension of the Star Wars label: Star Wars: Visions. Produced by several prolific Japanese animation houses, the nine-episode anthology series presents a fresh selection of innovative short stories set in the well-established intergalactic cinematic universe.

Golding headlines the English dub of the episode “Akakiri,” voicing the mysterious Jedi Tsubaki. Plagued by visions of death and destruction, he must join forces with a former paramour to defend her kingdom from Sith rule.

Dignified and aloof, Tsubaki broods and beguiles with a gravelly tone befitting a traditional outlaw. His admirable valiance precipitates heartbreaking impulsivity that serves as the episode’s emotional crux.

The somber essence of “Akakiri” extricates a noticeably grimmer Golding. Or at least, the potential of one. I mourn the fact that he doesn’t say very much throughout the episode due to its 15-minute runtime. If anything, his efforts exemplify that one day — preferably sooner than later — he has the chops to play a fully-fledged Byronic hero.

What’s Next

The spotlight still calls for Henry Golding. He is definitely filling out his filmography with a delightful assortment of projects across multiple genres. At the time of writing, Persuasion — yes, the Jane Austen adaptation — as well as Camille Delamarre’s action vehicle Assassin Club are in post-production. He will also hone his vocal talents in The Tiger’s Apprentice, an animated film based on Laurence Yep’s fantasy novel of the same name.

I count our blessings that we get to witness this burgeoning star at work. The glamorous sheen of Golding’s fame is but the cherry atop a sundae of thoughtful career moves that illustrate his immeasurable abilities. We need more actors like Golding at the forefront of the entertainment industry, sustaining the stories we love with soulfulness.

Sheryl Oh: Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)