Ilo Ilo (2013)

Not Rated   |    |  Drama

Ilo Ilo (2013) Poster

In 90s Singapore, the friendship between Filipino nursemaid Teresa and her young charge Jiale makes waves in a family, while the Asian recession hits the region.




  • Yann Yann Yeo and Jia Ler Koh in Ilo Ilo (2013)
  • Angeli Bayani and Jia Ler Koh in Ilo Ilo (2013)
  • Angeli Bayani and Jia Ler Koh in Ilo Ilo (2013)
  • Angeli Bayani and Jia Ler Koh in Ilo Ilo (2013)
  • Angeli Bayani and Jia Ler Koh in Ilo Ilo (2013)
  • Ilo Ilo (2013)

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Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews

15 August 2013 | fvila
| In Search of Authenticity
This movie captures the atmosphere of the end of the 90's in Singapore, when an economic tsunami devastated much of Asia, through the memories of a 10-year old.

When Antony Chen was looking for a subject for his first feature film, he recorded an event of his childhood that he had since nearly erased from this memory: how he was heartbroken when the Filipino maid who was living with his family had to leave, following his mother's decision to stay at home to tend to the family. From there, vignettes of the past came back to him, that he sought to transcribe them in the movie in the most authentic manner possible.

Antony Chen pushed that search for authenticity pretty far, as to find Ko Jia Le (the boy playing the central part), he trawled schools seeing some 2000 boys, interviewing hundreds, and inviting a hundred of them to do workshops. The result was not to take the cutest or the best-looking - something the director wanted to avoid - in fact you often feel ill at ease watching him, playing obsessively with him Tamagochi (remember those?) or making a nuisance of himself in all sorts of ways. You love him and you hate him, was the director's comment, and shooting the movie appears never to have been easy. "There were two children on the set, one in front of the camera, one behind", reminisced Chen. The embarrassment you feel watching him is a compounded by that caused by the tensions between the characters, sometimes so painful and so real that you wonder what you are doing there watching them.

The period of the film is, in 2013, highly unusual: nobody to my knowledge has yet set an entire film in the 1990's. But none of the usual tricks to show the audience the period: no camera lingering on a period calendar, no newsreels announcing events identifiable with the period. Part of the time you forget about it, and get reminded by an audio cassette or an electronic typewriter.

The movie is upheld by a brilliant cast of very eclectic actors. Chen Tian Wen (the father) comes from Singapore TV soap operas, Angeli Bayani is Filipino and worked in the Philippines in theater and in movies. The fact that the mother (Yann Yann Yeo), was really 6-month pregnant during the shooting, adds humanity to a character who would otherwise appear excessively domineering. The art director is French, met by Chen in the London school of cinema. Chen expressed how he had fears that being a westerner he would show a romantic view of Singapore, something like Woody Allen in Paris, which would have gone against his search for authenticity. The shooting does avoid any romanticism but remains highly interesting, occasionally tripping into a dreamlike quality at odds with the rest of the movie.

In short, this is a movie like none other.

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Release Date:

29 August 2013


Mandarin, Tagalog, English, Hokkien

Country of Origin

Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, France

Filming Locations


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$8,775 6 April 2014

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:


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