Ilo Ilo, a heartwarming bittersweet movie dredges up feelings from the 90’s

It was a weeknight fund-raising film screening for Crescent and my friend Oi Yee had proffered a few of us tickets. All I knew about Ilo Ilo was that it was a story about a Filipino maid working for a Singapore family.

Trepidation. Was it going to be tragic? A film award winner probably meant something moody, didn’t it?

And I slept in the last few movies I watched on a weeknight. In a restful dark room, sleep was inevitable.

Then the movie started. I was awake from the first second, not wanting to blink to miss a scene.

It was engaging, and as ordinary details unfolded in familiar lives, it was compelling and fascinating.

It resonated of an older Singapore, somehow projecting a familiar, restful feel. Layers which I now missed, like so many others in Singapore, which had come and gone.

I remembered a time when many talked about how Filipino maids were surrogate mums in busy Singaporean families.

Oh, this was 1997 recession-hit Singapore.

Gallery - ILO ILO - A Film By Anthony Chen

During the post-movie discussion, we revealed that we had all connected to the movie very well. And the “younger ones” who grew up in the 90’s loved it all the more. The reminiscent scenes will resonate with Singaporeans, they said.

However, a presumably international audience at Cannes had already received it with great enthusiasm, delivering a 15-minute standing ovation, despite three blackouts.

Everyone loves a good story. And this one also speaks of universal themes. Fuelled from his own memories, it turns out. How sweet.

Great job by Anthony Chen, and the cast and crew.

Antidote for a stressful week – thanks Oi Yee!


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