Laura Vincent from Stratford-upon-Avon Picturehouse reviews todays Discover Tuesdays presentation of Anthony Chen’s ILO ILO which won the Camera d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
ILO ILO is a wonderfully sweet and intimate feature debut from Singaporean director Anthony Chen. A study of one family struggling to keep afloat during an economic downturn, it centres upon the lives of the good-natured Teck (Tianwen Chen), a failing salesman; his pregnant and short-tempered wife Hwee Leng (Yann Yann Yeo); and their young, troublesome and often brattish son, Jialer (Jialer Koh).
The film reveals the characters’ everyday problems and their tensions with one another. Into the midst of those tensions arrives Teresa, their new Filipino maid (excellently played by Angeli Bayani), who has her own problems to deal with while also taking on those of her employers. As in all great dramas, it becomes apparent throughout the film that each of the four main characters has a secret – often about money – that they are hiding from the others. Teck is struggling to conceal his employment situation and lack of income, as well as his return to his smoking habit. Hwee Leng is interested in seminars being given by an entrepreneur. Instead of concentrating in school, Jialer is obsessed with working out a system for the lottery. Teresa needs to send more money back home to pay for her son’s care, and she takes on a second job at a hair salon, where she receives cash payment.
Although they are all living so closely together, it still takes a considerable amount of time for their cover-ups to be exposed, and it is this interplay and their evolving relationships that are the heart of the film: the characters and their various secrets are very skilfully interwoven.
ILO ILO is beautifully shot, and demonstrates Chen’s ability as a director. He is certainly someone to watch.