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.
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.
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.
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
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