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Ilo Ilo 2014


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Set in Singapore during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Ilo Ilo chronicles the day-to-day drama of the Lim family - troublesome grade-schooler Jiale and his overstressed parents, Heck and Leng. Comfortably middle-class and with another baby on the way, they hire Teresa, a Filipino immigrant, as a live-in maid and nanny. An outsider in both the family and Singapore itself, Teresa initially struggles to manage Jiale's antics and find her footing in her new community. The two eventually form a unique bond, but just as Teresa becomes an unspoken part of the family, unforeseen circumstances in an uncertain economy will challenge the new normal yet again. In 2009, Anthony Chen was accorded the Young Artist Award by the National Arts Council of Singapore. In 2010, he completed his Masters in Film Directing at the National Film and Television School, UK with a scholarship from the Media Development Authority of Singapore. Collectively, his shorts have screened at numerous prestigious film festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Rotterdam, Pusan, London, Sao Paulo, Stockholm, Sydney, Montreal, Melbourne, Chicago, Hawaii, etc. ILO ILO marks his feature film debut.

Angeli Bayani, Koh Jia Ler
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Product Details

  • Feature ages_12_and_over
Runtime 1 hour 39 minutes
Starring Angeli Bayani, Koh Jia Ler, Yann Yann Yeo, Tian Wen Chen
Director Anthony Chen
Genres Drama
Rental release 25 August 2014
Main languages Chinese
Subtitles English

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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Set in 1997 we meet the Lim family - this is the start of the financial breakdown and Mr Lim has made some ill considered investments. He also works as a salesman for a company who seem to make useless tat in the glass department. His wife also works and they have a young son Jiale. Because of their work commitments they decide to get a Filipino maid - as was the fashion at the time. Enter Terry who has left her native home and young child to earn some money by being a virtual slave to her new masters.

First thing they do is take her passport away in case she runs off. She also has to sleep on a `put me up bed' in the same room as Jiale. It is not easy for her but she is one of lifes' strugglers and so she begins to work her way into the affections of the family - especially Jiale. This is essentially about their relationship, trust and love. The Asian title for this film was `Father, Mother - Not at Home' which is really what the film is about. The `Ilo Ilo' reference is alluding to the Ilonggo dialect of Iloilo province where Terry comes from. We hear her speak this when she calls home.

This won the Camera D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013 and deservedly so. It is a debut feature film from film director and writer Anthony Chen, so I hope we get to see a lot more from him. The acting is all excellent and the period detail is subtle but effective. Most of the dialogue is in English but because of the very strong regional accents it is all sub titled. An absolutely surprising and rewarding film that I find very easy to recommend.
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A complex story told with admirable simplicity and exceptional realism, ‘Ilo Ilo’ is so deeply engaging that it feels more like an experience in real life than just watching movie, a moving, evocative and enriching one at that.

Remarkably, understatement is the key to the film’s success as an exemplary achievement in cinema. From toned down colour and unadorned sets to unsentimental storytelling through restrained but nuanced performances, the writer and director, Anthony Chen achieves a seamless balance between all cinematic elements, a task that is not as easy as it may sound. It indeed is a stunning feat for a feature début.

Following her captivating performance in ‘Norte, the End of History’, Angeli Bayani plays Terry the Filipino maid here, once again proving what a gifted actress she is. Given the unassuming characterisation that is required of her and the minimalist and credible dialogue at her disposal, the way she manages to capture and command our empathy is truly extraordinary, particularly because we know only a little about her. How she does this is all down to her facial expressions, for her presence is never overpowering.

Equally scintillating is Yann Yann Yeo as Hwee Leng, the pregnant mother, a character fraught with such complex emotions that only a virtuoso can bring it to life this intensely. The performance of Jialer Koh as Jialer, the little boy in the care of Terry, is also astonishing for how comfortable and convincing he is in front of the camera despite being a novice. In a pivotal role that underpins the emotional core of the story, Koh dose not act, but lives the character as if he was born to play it.
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By Call me Al TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 April 2016
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Set in Singapore during the 1997 Asian financial crisis this is an understated, absorbing and sensitive exploration of strained relationships within an aspiring nuclear family and the imperceptible but significant effect their Filipina maid has on their behaviour towards each other as they reassess what is important to them. Initially what appears to be a straightforward mundane domestic drama gradually transforms into a subtle and touching psychological study of four individuals as the dynamics of the household evolve due to changing economic circumstances. Each adult in the household has their own secrets, their own guilt and anxieties about being discovered doing something due to economic necessity. At the centre of this emotional maelstrom is Jiale, a 10 year old boy whose challenging behaviour might be interpreted as a symptom of neglect by parents worried about losing their jobs and whose reaction is to hire an overseas maid rather than give him the attention he craves. Perhaps the tension between the need for financial security or desire for financial advancement and the need to care for family is universal, but in this film it is particularly poignant since it is not only Jiale’s parents who choose to neglect their offspring. The four principals give outstanding ‘natural’ performances in a film full of pragmatism, humanity and gentle humour and which is more complex than it seems. Highly recommended.
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By Moira TOP 500 REVIEWER on 28 Sept. 2015
Format: DVD
This film takes a close look at the dynamics of an aspiring middle class family in Singapore. Both parents work and Mrs Lim is pregnant with their second child. Partly out of necessity and partly you suspect, enjoying it as a status symbol, Mrs Lim hires a Filipino maid, Terry, to look after their apartment and by extension their ten year old son Jiale. Mother and son are both nightmares. Mrs Lim takes Terry's passport for 'safe keeping' and gives her the pull out bed in Jiale's room to sleep on. Jiale is a brat of the most annoying kind. Even his teachers struggle to control him and only his mother's shrieking seems to temporarily stall him. Mr Lim seems ineffectual in all this, leaving things to his wife for a quiet life. He has problems of his own losing both his job and then his savings to the stock market, without telling anyone.

Gradually Terry adjusts to her new circumstances, bonding with Jiale and exercising at least some control over him. As they become closer you see Mrs Lim becoming jealous of their relationship. All of this is acted out in a very unforced way with naturalistic language and behaviour. There is nothing melodramatic about it.

The film is good at examining the economic pressures on families. Mrs Lim works to support her family so has to employ Terry. Terry has to work looking after someone else's child as she has a baby of her own back in the Philippines, being cared for by her sister. She also takes a second job in a hairdressers to supplement her earnings. It is only when Mrs Lim becomes aware of the extent of their own financial problems that she becomes more human and behaves more kindly toward Terry. She has been pursuing the ideal family but the family has been taking second place to the ideal.

A gently moving film.
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