Film pick


100 minutes/****1/2

This work bounces back into cinemas following its romp through the Golden Horse Awards last week. Perhaps this time, the box office will be kinder to Singapore film-maker Anthony Chen than the last round.

Chen set 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 salesman job.

The couple hire Filipino domestic helper Terry (Angeli Bayani) in the hope that she will keep a clean home and supervise their son.

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

Through her foreign eyes, our habits are shown to be the stuff of comedy - the dad who feels most comfortable at home in his underwear, our intense yet oddly functional relationship with food and the significance of lucky numbers.

All four of Chen's lead actors deliver naturalistic performances of a standard that will set the benchmark for years, especially in the case of Yeo (who won Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Horse) and Koh.


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