Ilo Ilo (2013)

Anthony Chen ♦ 99 mins ♦ Family ♦ Singapore

8 8 7 8.5 8 6
look pace energy feels depth humor

Amid strong anti-Filipino sentiments culminating into a public clamor against Philippine Independence Day celebrations this year came “爸妈不在家” (Ba ma bu zai jia) or literally, “Mom and Dad Are Not Home” from Singapore’s own Anthony Chen. Fictional take siya ng sariling experience ng may-akda growing up with a Pinay nanny. Just like in the movie, Auntie Terry ang tawag ni Mr. Chen sa yaya niya. At tulad rin sa personal experience niya, umuwi rin eventually sa Iloilo ang character na si Teresa – hence the eponymous English title. But what really mattered in the film (which, btw, won it the Camera d’Or at last year’s Cannes) is the realistic yet tender depiction of the Singaporean middle class before the Asian financial crisis. Walang delineated na bida o kontrabida dito, though everyone will, without a doubt, relate to at least one member of the ensemble. Magaling ang pagkasulat at direct ni Mr. Chen; natural ang daloy ng narrative at acting, pero ang bigat at ang ganda ng subtle revelations at developments ng bawat character. Wala din stereotypes dito: palaban pero malambing si Auntie Terry, warm at affectionate pero sobrang sutil si Jiale, mapangmata’t bossy pero may konsensya si Hwee Leng at walang imik at kibo pero marangal si Keng Teck. I personally love how this film restrains itself from being the gushfest it almost seemed it was, and to great effect. Ang commonplace kasi sa region na ito ng all-out sappiness, lalo sa mga palabas. Kaya ang sarap makaranas ng isang napaka-straightforward at earnest na pelikulang tumatalakay sa multiethnic at multicultural society ng Singapore in particular at ng SE Asia in general. Pero finally, I’d like to take note of Koh Jia Ler for putting in an outstanding performance as a good-hearted albeit troubled kid without having to resort to clichéd pa-cute and old-and-tired rebel swagger other kid actors still are wont to employ. Oh, and just in case nagtataka kayo, Anthony Chen managed to reconnect with his own real life Auntie Terry because of the film. And it was a happy and tearful reunion somewhere in Iloilo, where it all came full perfect circle.

Full Credits

directorAnthony Chen|producerAng Hwee Sim Anthony Chen Wahyuni A. Hadi|writerAnthony Chen|castChen Tianwen Yeo Yann Yann Angeli Bayani Koh Jia Ler|cameraBenoit Soler|musicAsin (c/o Lolita Carbon) – end credits soundtrack|editingChen Ho Ping Joanne Cheong|production managerJan Ho Elvin Lim|set dresserKe Liang Yang|art directorMichael Wee|soundZhe Wu (Dolby Digital)|castingGayle Hariff Chia Meng Koo|productionSingapore Film Commission Ngee Ann Polytechnic Fisheye Pictures|distributionMemento Films International(World Sales) Golden Village Pictures(Singapore) Epicentre(France) Golden Scene(HK) Media Asia(China)|year2013|length99’|genredrama family|spoken languageEnglish Mandarin Hokkien Singlish Tagalog Ilonggo|subtitlesHardcoded(English)|countrySingapore

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