Directed by: Anthony Chen
Starring: Angeli Bayani, Koh Jia Ler, Yeo Yann Yann, Chen Tian Wen
The Asian economic struggles of the late 90s form an intriguing backdrop to Anthony Chen’s intense, clever study of a typical middle-class Singaporean family, and the effect their new maid has on their lives. Filipino Terry, a meek yet resilient Angeli Bayani, moves in with the stressed, aspirational and fractured Lim family, and immediately struggles to form a bond with her primary charge, young son Jiale (the excellent debutant Koh Jia Ler). The financial tumults of 1997 are a lingering presence from the off, as we see a heavily pregnant Hwee Leng (Yeo Yann Yann) type redundancy letters in her admin job, and a despairing Teck (Chen Tian Wen) come up with increasingly desperate ways in which to keep his family afloat.
What is most striking about the Lims is their relative lack of wealth; true, Mrs Lim may not have much time to make Jiale’s favourite fish soup, or finish the washing, but together with the family’s tiny flat (Terry is forced to share a bedroom with a mutinous Jiale) and clapped-out car, the signs of money troubles are there from the off. The hiring of a maid seems less than prudent, but Ilo Ilo’s world is one of keeping up with the Joneses, whatever the consequences. Everyone is an outsider, and Jiale’s disruptive behaviour at school epitomises this; both colleagues and classmates turn into enemies as the crisis takes it toll. Deviation from a scripted path of success cannot be countenanced, so it’s no wonder that Jiale walks a fine line between education and expulsion every day, whilst his parents endure a bickering, bitter marriage. What Terry adds to the mix is a fresh set of eyes, an opinion fashioned by its own set of problems. Whether she hails from the Ilo Ilo Filipino region of the title is never explicitly stated, but her guilt at leaving her family back home is; more than anything, it is this that changes the relationship between Terry and her new son-by-proxy.
Directed by Ari Folman
Starring Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm
Six years later, Ari Folman’s long-anticipated follow up to the stirring Waltz With Bashir is a departure from the intensely personal animated war memoir, opting instead for themes so sprawling and universal, they will, in the words of the director ‘break your mind.’
For fans of the high concept, they do not come much higher than this. Robin Wright (Robin Wright) is an ageing Hollywood actress, living (symbolically) in an aircraft hangar with her two children. Whether it was motherhood, Hollywood or, as she’s accused of throughout the film, her own terrible decision making. Wright’s thirties have been significantly less fruitful for her career than her twenties were. She is now presented by Miramount studios with the opportunity to have herself scanned into a machine that can generate infinite computer-generated films starring a much younger and more co-operative Robin Wright. In a cutting observation of the Hollywood machine, she is given very little choice in the matter and, despite her reservations, the scan goes ahead.
Directed by Lucas Moodysson
Starring Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin & Liv LeMoyne
Available on DVD now
Bobo (Barkhammar) is just 13, as is her friend Klara (Grosin), and they both love punk. To shut up the local bad rock band- ‘Iron Fist’- they book out their youth club’s rehearsal room. But this requires them to establish their own band, which is complicated by the fact that they have no songs and no instruments. We Are The Best! follows these two- and later their much more talented friend Hedvig (LeMoyne) – as they forge ahead in proving that punk’s not dead in 1982.
Lukas Moodysson, previously best known for Show Me Love, steps forward from darker art fare to offer this honest, heartfelt take on the punk scene in Sweden in 1982. But it steps beyond this specific background to show something ineffable about the cusp of teenhood. For example – Bobo has a crush on Linus (Charlie Falk) Klara’s brother, and tries to impress him by drinking at his party. She throws up on his records instead. Klara dismisses her brother, saying he deserted punk, that he only listens to Joy Division now; in this, and in the unfortunate records-vomit incident, I saw my own teens reflected. Granted, that might be more an indictment of me than I hope, but I think it’s fitting praise for a film that strives to bring out the best of punk and teens. Even when the characters are being nasty, they’re funny and true to life: the girls debate whether to let a Christian girl join their group, Bobo opining ‘I think it’s political to be hanging out with the less fortunate’. That kind of dialogue is prevalent in the innocent egocentrism of kids, and Moodysson captures it perfectly.