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Ilo Ilo 爸媽不在家

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 6:30pm
Center for Korean Studies Building

Singapore (2013, 99 min)
Mandarin, English

Director: Anthony Chen
Writer: Anthony Chen
Cast: Yann Yann Yeo, Tian Wen Chen, Angeli Bayani

Shot in Singapore, the film explores the predicament of so many Asian children who are placed in the care of foreign nannies while their parents work to maintain a double-income lifestyle. One such family is the Lims, who are going through a particularly rough patch during the Asian economic crisis in 1997. Keng Teck Lim (Chen Tian Wen) has lost his sales exec job, but hasn’t mustered the courage to tell anyone; his wife, Hwee Leng (Yeo Yann Yann), is pregnant, but still plugs away at a mentally draining secretarial position. Starved of attention, their 10 year-old son, Jiale (Koh Jia Ler), has become a troublemaker at school, forcing the Lims to hire domestic help Terry (Angeli Bayani), who hails from the Philippine province of the title, to keep an eye on him.

Debuting helmer Anthony Chen is remarkably astute in his depiction of the class and racial tensions within such a household, his accessible style enabling the characters’ underlying decency and warmth to emerge unforced. This small but immensely likable gem won the Camera d’Or at Cannes. It’s a film that brims with love, humor and heartbreak.

Maggie Lee, Variety

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