Ilo Ilo, Singaporean film done right

In 1997, the economic downturn in Singapore was at its worst. During this time, one family decides to hire a maid to ease their burden with their problematic child. Terry the newly arrived maid soon befriends the child, weaving a tragic but beautiful Singaporean tale.


Straight off the bat, this movie’s’ take is exceptionally different from its peers. No longer does the film try to champion Singaporean values and cultures. Instead, it seeps flawlessly into each scene without a character having to verbalize each new cultural introduction. I am looking at you The Maid. Call me a brand new man but I finally found a Singaporean film that I would re-watch sometime in the future.

This movie gets Sean’s stamp of approval

The director is masterful in portraying an old-school Singapore. From its olden decor to the way there is an ever-present sepia filter that coated the scenes. This is reminiscent of the way pictures at the time had low color fidelity. Even the subtle things like the hairstyle and the dress-sense slowly lures the audience into another time period.

Old rickety Singapore

One main aspect of the movie would be its portrayal of domestic abuse in Singapore. It is not overt as in kicking and slapping the maid but rather a slow mental grind. Firstly you can see that the mother has a very poor impression of the maid. She hides her valuables as if maids have a tendency to steal. As the movie proceeds, you can observe her jealousy over the budding relationship between the two lead her to mistreating the maid. Terry is denied at the table and made to sit outside during dinner. She is even given a disapproving glance when she tries to say her daily prayers before her meal. In essence, her beliefs are not taken seriously and is taken for a second class citizen. Sadly, this is an epidemic among the privileged rich who overlook human worth.

Deep down I wanted them to stay together.

Out of the myriad of characters presented in this movie, I found myself truly relating to Jia Le, the young delinquent. Mostly because I myself had a similar upbringing. Both parents work outside in order to sustain the family but in doing so neglect their child’s needs. Almost like a cry for help and attention, the boy lashes out to his surroundings. While his initial reception of the maid was poor (that’s an understatement), the two soon bond as the maid slowly intercedes as maternal figure. I remember bawling my eyes out as well as my long time maid Test finally returned home to have a family of her own.

A great Singaporean classic, a rarity indeed. 8/10

Goodbye mortals! My posts end here! Saraba!

Enjoyed my post? Leave a comment in the comment section below! ┗(`皿´)┛




2 Replies to “Ilo Ilo, Singaporean film done right”

  1. Farewell Shaawn. True, this movie is something many Singaporeans our age can relate to, especially being in Jia Le’s shoes during that period in time. When our parents were busy working, the closest confidante we had at home were our domestic helpers. Although it wasn’t outright physical abuse, the unfair treatment many employers place upon their domestic helpers could be considered as mental abuse. The portrayal of Singapore from that period of time was truly impressive. From the old school cars to the very classic looking school gates we seldom see these days. Truly, this movie managed to capture the essence of a very typical Singaporean family. Adios amigo.


  2. I didn’t know you will develop the tendency to re-watch a Singaporean film, I always thought you weren’t a fan of local productions. I see that you noticed the sepia colored scenes that bring out the times of the era the film was portraying. It definitely contributes a lot to the old-school feel when combined with the outfits and hairstyles. Maybe you could learn a few pointers in the fashion of that era as it definitely still looks cooler than what you have been sporting. No offense Sean haha. I am sorry to hear that you could relate most to Jia Le in Ilo Ilo but I am quite sure you won’t be the only one around here feeling like this. Anyway, your whole writing had been enjoyable to read as always and if I had to rate your overall blog I’ll give it 4.5/5 stars. The 0.5 was missing due to the lame Pokémon theme you had HAHA.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s