If you’re looking for something to watch this weekend, I’d say check out the latest Singapore film, Ilo Ilo. I didn’t get a chance to watch The Girl in Pinafore, which I heard was lovely too but I did catch Ilo Ilo. I’m happy to say that I did enjoy Anthony Chen’s first feature film. I know how immensely difficult it is to direct, much less a feature film so in spite of the fact that there were a couple of rough first time directional calls, the film was strongly held together by a genuine heart and that’s consistent in all of Anthony’s other projects.
It was a simple story that all Singaporeans can relate to, actually it’s pretty universal, it’s about relationships. How we build them, take them for granted, destroy them and try to rebuild them again. The acting was very strong, even from Jia Ler, the lead boy who is making his acting debut with Ilo Ilo. The art direction was impeccable. I couldn’t tell that the film was shot in 21st century Singapore and I left the cinema hoping that Anthony keeps at his craft. This doesn’t happen often with me where I root for a director’s next film before I’ve even finished contmplating his current one. Anthony even managed to make me ponder about my own scripts. That doesn’t ever happen when I watch big Hollywood studio films :p For that alone, I’m grateful I made the time to catch this film.
Ilo Ilo may have won the Camera d’Or award at Cannes and has been shortlisted for Singapore’s submission to the Oscars but I don’t think we’ve seen Anthony Chen’s best work yet. At only 29, I’m hoping the harsh media environment in Singapore doesn’t kill his spirit and there will be more of where Ilo Ilo came from.