22 December 2019 | desmondchan-02178
Finding back our human connections
In the grain of Taiwanese New Wave director Edward Yang and Hou-Hsiao Hsian, Anthony Chen's sophomore feature after Ilo Ilo establishes himself as a keen observer of unconventional relationships and Singapore realism. While the social commentary about Singapore's pragmatism and middle-class life was humorously played out with meticulous attention to the settings in the 90s during the Asian Financial Crisis in Ilo Ilo, the critique here is less layered, fleshed out more explicitly by how Chinese Language is sidelined and pursued only for economic interests, how the interaction between Ling the teacher and her principal centres on success and promotion, and how marital relations are reduced to discussions on surgical IVF treatments. Still, the themes of isolation and displacement are woven intricately through a monochromatic palette and sensitive characterization, anchored particularly by delicate performances from Yeo Yann Yann and Simon Yong, the Father-in-law who unwittingly assumes the role of a surrogate child who keeps the loveless couple together. For a local production, it is a bold take on a forbidden teacher-student relationship and Anthony's compassionate gaze carries the sombre, but predictable story with beautiful sensitivity. The wet season may mask our tears and the disillusionment from the Singapore dream, but it could also signal a fresh start to find the connections that make us human again.