The help is at hand
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.