My chem­i­cal ro­mance

This Malaysian drama about ex­ploita­tion will break your heart.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - Re­view by ANGELIN YEOH en­ter­tain­ment@ thes­tar. com. my

Pekak Di­rec­tor: Mohd Khairul Azri Cast: Zahiril Adzim, Shar­i­fah Amani, Shar­i­fah Sak­i­nah, Iedil Pu­tra, Amerul Af­fendi, Zaidi Omar and Joe Fl­iz­zow

ABOUT 20 min­utes into Pekak, there is an ar­rest­ing shot where the au­di­ence gets a bird’s- eye view of Uda’s ( Zahiril Adzim) shoe­box room. He walks in, takes off his shoes and sits on a ta­ble fac­ing the win­dow. There is a sin­gle bed in the room with red sheets. In that tiny space lies Uda’s dream.

He plays Oth­man Hamzah’s Rin­ti­han Hati on his record player and it’s loud enough for the neigh­bour who com­plains by knock­ing on his wall. His dream is also eas­ily con­veyed to the au­di­ence through this melan­cholic song about long­ing.

Un­for­tu­nately, Uda doesn’t know what the song sounds like, or that his neigh­bours are up­set. He is deaf.

Pekak un­folds as a vis­ually stun­ning film where its char­ac­ters and their un­savoury deeds are bathed in bright hues of pink, green and white neon lights. We see Uda, bril­liantly por­trayed by Zahiril, as a hard- work­ing drug dealer who needs to save up RM60,000 for a cochlear im­plant.

He finds more rea­son for save up for the im­plant when he falls in love with teenage school­girl Dara ( Shar­i­fah Amani). He watches her lis­ten­ing to the same Oth­man Hamzah song and that is all he needs as a sign of fate. So much so that he longs to hear her voice. Se­ri­ously, girls. Look for a guy who will look at you like how Uda pines for Dara. He even learns how to walk with con­fi­dence from a drug dealer played by Joe Fl­iz­zow.

There is also so much irony in this film. I love how Joe, a rap­per in real life, is cast as a dealer who has to speak slowly for his drug pusher to un­der­stand him. Dara’s fa­ther, mean­while, is a se­cu­rity guard who fails to pro­tect his own daugh­ter from ac­tual threats.

Though Uda is deaf, it doesn’t stop him from wear­ing rock band t- shirts ( Joy Divi­sion’s Un­known Plea­sures sounds like a state­ment about Uda’s long­ing to hear). We can only imag­ine what he thinks mu­sic sounds like. This beau­ti­fully and sub­tly re­minds the au­di­ence what Uda is striv­ing for, and it’s some­thing that we of­ten take for granted.

Ul­ti­mately, how­ever, Pekak doesn’t solely re­fer to Uda’s deaf­ness. It’s how the other char­ac­ters are obliv­i­ous to the fact that they are free- fall­ing to self- de­struc­tion be­cause of their re­spec­tive vices. Dara’s friends Kamil, Az­man and Melur ( played by Iedil Pu­tra, Amerul Af­fendi and Shar­i­fah Sak­i­nah re­spec­tively) have a pill for ev­ery­thing. You need to en­joy loud techno mu­sic? Pop a pill. Dara not feel­ing ro­man­tic? Pop an­other pill. No more pills? No wor­ries as Uda can de­liver more in an hour.

We’ll come to learn how Uda, in his quest to hear again, has un­know­ingly con­trib­uted to Dara’s mis­for­tune ( Pekak could just as eas­ily have been called Re­quiem For A Dara).

So Pekak may look pretty but it has tragic, ugly con­se­quences in store for ev­ery­one in it.

How­ever, its de­pic­tion of vice feels like overkill. I wish there was less sub­stance abuse and more ex­plo­ration of the other char­ac­ters’ mo­ti­va­tions. I don’t get why Dara falls in love with Uda. What con­ver­sa­tions did they have for her to think that he is the only one who truly un­der­stands her? Does she ex­press her dreams and re­ceive sup­port only from him?

The scene of the two of them sit­ting on a roof to­gether could have been used to re­in­force the ro­mance an­gle, but it is just sped through with­out any di­a­logue – which is frus­trat­ing.

Per­haps it’s just my cyn­i­cism. Maybe Uda and Dara don’t need a lot to know what love is, and Pekak is meant to be ex­pe­ri­enced as an emo­tional, hal­lu­cino­genic trip about the great­est drug of all ... love.

— Grand Bril­liance

The love­birds need to make it home in time for Akademi Fan­ta­sia.

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