Writer: Casey ChongWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“Singapore Dreaming”, “Yi Yi” and “Tokyo Sonata”.
When "Ilo Ilo" was first released at the prestigious 2013 Cannes Film Festival, this low-budget Singaporean drama was greeted with 15 minutes worth of standing ovation during the Director's Fortnight premiere. It even made history when "Ilo Ilo" became the first Singaporean feature movie to win the Camera d'Or award (an award for the best first feature film) at the Cannes Film Festival. "Ilo Ilo" continues to make headlines at the recent Taiwan's Golden Horse Award when the movie bagged Best Film, Best Supporting Actress (Yeo Yann Yann), Best New Director and Best Original Screenplay.
Set in Singapore during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, "Ilo Ilo" centres on the bond between a 10-year-old Singaporean boy, Jiale (Koh Jia Ler) and the Filipino maid, Terry (Angeli Bavani). In the meantime, Jiale's parent - pregnant mother Hwee Leng (Yeo Yann Yann) and recently jobless father Teck (Chen Tianwen) - are struggling to deal with their own family and financial matter.
First-time feature director Anthony Chen, who already made his name in the critically-acclaimed short films such as "Ah Ma" and "Haze", inspired the movie from his own personal experience during the time when he grew up in 1990s Singapore with a Filipino maid and a family suffering from financial burdens. Chen's direction is naturalistic, yet well-paced enough without resorting into sentimental soap opera often found in this kind of movie.
As for Chen's screenplay, the story is genuinely moving and universally relatable the way he presented here in a uniquely Singaporean manner such as the "kiasu" (literally means "fear of losing") attitude of a typical middle-class Singaporean family tends to deal with their domestic or personal problems. Somewhere in between, Chen also includes a funny, yet involving gag about how people normally react when comes to lottery (you'll laugh when you see this one).
As the naughty schoolboy Jiale, you'll be surprised that this is actually Koh Jia Ler's acting debut and yet he plays his character like a seasoned pro. Angeli Bayani gives an emotionally heartfelt performance as a Filipino maid who is struggling between her own personal matters back home while trying to cope with her working condition in the hostile environment, such as the way she needs to tolerate with Jiale's spiteful attitude when they first met before gradually manages to connect each other like brother and sister. In fact, it's impossible not to feel emotionally involved with the strong chemistry between Bayani and Jia Ler. Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann (who happens to be pregnant during the shoot) is pitch-perfect the way she portrays a typical Singaporean working-class woman with remarkable accuracy, while Singaporean theater and TV veteran Chen Tianwen is simply impressive as the family's breadwinner who faces harsh reality after losing his job.
All the production values here are top notch, with extra kudos goes to French cinematographer Benoit Soler who gives the overall look of this drama a suitably down-to-earth sight of the 1997 Singapore.
A masterpiece that truly justified all the accolades the movie has been receiving so far, "Ilo Ilo" is certainly one of the best movies ever produced in Singapore. For those who are wondering the meaning of the "Ilo Ilo" title, it is actually named after a province of the Philippines.Cinema Online, 30 December 2013