Ilo Ilo

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Ba ma bu zai jia

“A delicate comedy-drama… a small gem about how families learn to persevere during the toughest of times.” — Tim Grierson, Screendaily

Director: Anthony Chen
Year: 2013
Country: Singapore
Running time: 99 mins
Censor Rating: M - adult themes

Screenplay: Anthony Chen
Producers: Ang Hwee Sim, Anthony Chen, Wahyuni A. Hadi
Photography: Benoit Soler
Editors: Hoping Chen, Joanne Cheong
Production designer: Michael Wee
Sound: Zhe Wu
In Mandarin, English and Tagalog, with English subtitles

With: Yeo Yann Yann (Hwee Leng, mother), Tian Wen Chen (Teck, father), Angeli Bayani (maid), Koh Jia Ler (Jiale), Peter Wee (discipline master), Jo Kukathas (school principal), Naomi Toh (Mrs Ong, English teacher), Delwin Neo (fat boy), Jo Kwek (Lisa, mother’s colleague), Gim Goh (Jimmy Goh), Pamela Wildheart (salon owner)

Festivals: Cannes (Directors’ Fortnight) 2013

Caméra D’Or (Best First Film), Cannes Film Festival 2013

Winner of the Caméra d’Or for Best First Feature at Cannes this year, Anthony Chen’s finely observed family drama pivots on the relationship between a wilful small Singaporean Chinese boy and his Filipina nanny. The impact of the 1997 Asian financial crisis is pushing hard on the Lim household and both parents are working long hours in precarious jobs to maintain their modest apartment lifestyle. Teresa is hired to take care of young Jiale, whose stunningly bad attitude clearly owes something to tensions at home – and just as clearly feeds right back into them. Teresa has her work cut out. 

The mutating truce she strikes with the young hellion is never quite what you expect. The film’s lifelike absence of easy resolutions makes its cumulative emotional impact all the stronger. The performances are flawless and beautifully nuanced. Every dysfunctional moment in this pressured family feels dead right – and completely understandable.

“To tell his story of a not so far away past that says a lot about the present, Anthony Chen has chosen to focus on characters with a very welcome sense of ‘democracy.’ As Renoir’s motto went: ‘Everyone has his own reasons.’ The father looks weak? He has the bravery to accept any job that comes. The mother nags more than the average? Despair and anxiety lead her to well-intentioned illusions…

In a time when ‘vintage’ has affected so many productions, making most look like trendy antique shops on screen, Anthony Chen’s reconstruction of the late 90s, thanks to his sense of colors, locations and faces, feels like a heartfelt, lived-through vision.” — Marie-Pierre Duhamel,