The help is at hand

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM - TARA BRADY


Di­rected by Anthony Chen. Star­ring Koh Jia Ler, An­gela Bayani, Yeo Yann Yann, Chen Tian Wen, Peter Wee 12A cert, limited re­lease, 99 min Much to the dis­may of his pres­surised fa­ther and cranky, preg­nant mother, 10-year-old Jiale ( re­mark­able Koh Jia Ler) is “act­ing up”. Money is hardly plen­ti­ful, but the two work­ing and of­ten ab­sent par­ents have lit­tle op­tion but to hire in a Filipino maid (An­geli Bayani) to help with chores and the way­ward boy.

At first, Jiale at­tempts to get rid of his new min­der – he even stoops to fram­ing her for shoplift­ing – but slowly the sen­si­ble, re­silient Teresa (or Aun­tie Terry) wins him over.

Set against the fi­nan­cial col­lapse of 1997, Ilo Ilo de­picts a Sin­ga­porean fam­ily in cri­sis us­ing del­i­cate dra­matic move­ments. Fa­mil­ial dis­cords are grad­u­ally con­tex­tu­alised: dad has se­cretly lost his job; the dragon mom Leng is crip­pled with ma­ter­nal guilt. Not un­like the char­ac­ters ex­plored in Lukas Moodyson’s Mam­moth, both Leng and Teresa have no op­tion but to leave their chil­dren with other women. Mean­while, at work, Leng omi­nously types re­dun­dancy letters for her col­leagues.

Anthony Chen’s poignant drama rightly earned the Cam­era d’Or and a 15-minute stand­ing ova­tion at last year’s Cannes Film Fes­ti­val. Suc­cinct, hand­held cam­er­a­work and deft per­for­mances am­plify the drama’s emo­tional clout.

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