Movie recommendation: Ilo Ilo

Movie recommendation: Ilo Ilo
Cinema still: Ilo Ilo starring (from left) Chen Tianwen, Koh Jia Ler and Yeo Yann Yann.

ILO ILO (PG13)

100 minutes

****½

Singapore film-maker Anthony Chen sets his Camera d'Or-winning drama in the financial turmoil of 1997. Hwee Leng (Yeo Yann Yann) is the mother who splits her attention between her work and a son (Koh Jia Ler) who is a magnet for trouble in school. Father Teck (Chen Tianwen) struggles in his job as a salesman. The couple hire Filipino domestic helper Terry (Angeli Bayani), in the hope that she will keep a clean home and supervise Jia Ler.

The pay-offs here are in the keenly observed moments. Auntie Terry not only serves as a catalyst for change within the family, she is also the point of view from which the audience watches an average Singapore family in all its quirky glory.

All four lead actors deliver naturalistic performances of a standard that will set the benchmark for years to come, especially Yeo and Koh.

A large chunk of the drama is played out in the family's HDB flat, but there is little of the video flatness and claustrophobia that audiences have come to fear with that location. French director of photography Benoit Soler shows that if heartland films make flats look like prisons, it is the film-maker's fault, not the Housing Board's.


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