20 September 2006

Movie Review: Singapore Dreaming

This is a highly anticipated film for me, given my respect for its directors, Woo Yen Yen and Colin Goh, and the article that formed the basis for the film, Paved with Good Intentions. In addition, given the raving reviews it received and the comments the reviewers left behind, I think I'd be doing a disservice to myself if I give this movie a miss.

After watching the movie, I find myself having mixed opinions about it, though in my mind, of all local feature films, it ranks third behind I Not Stupid and Money Not Enough (this goes to show my opinion of local movies). It does have some amazing acting, mind-blowing when compared to typical MediaCorp artistes, and pretty much acceptable editing and sound effects, especially taking into consideration its budget. Moreover, given this sort of movie, it is the storyline that's the most important.

However, that's where the problem comes in. Firstly, the plot has several parts hanging in the air... some hand-waving parts that doesn't really answers the situation, leaving behind a bumpy flow. Also, the pace was pretty slow at the start, and the cutting between various scenes and characters leave me tad confused. And what's more, the ending seems a bit too artificial. By this, I mean that for most parts of the story, it is entirely plausible to happen in a typical family, but the ending is an unlikely turn of events that would destroy this otherwise "perfect reality".

One other major problem I had with the storyline is the message it is trying to get across. From its marketing and background, I understand that the directors are trying to tell us about what we're seeking in our lives, about the Singapore Dream and the Singapore Plan (the tagline of the movie is "What are you dreaming of?"). However, that is hardly visible in the storyline. Most of the time, I see a realistic depiction of a typical family struggling against certain odds, instead of some reflection or enlightenment of the characters. Sometimes, certain events in the storyline go against the original message. Take for example one scene in which, in an interview, the interviewer said that the degree is important, which kind of defeats the message of the Dream more important than the Plan.

However, when I said that this is a realistic story, it is indeed a realistic story. It is like taking an interesting slice of a Singaporean family's life and putting it onto the screen. Close to the heart and thought-provoking, I can identify very well with it, and even discover elements of the story in my family and myself. It's like a Jack Neo film without the humour and perfect ending, because life is seldom packaged with these two.

This is a high recommendation from me to anyone who's a Singaporean or lived in Singapore long enough, for despite its flaws, it is one story that touches the heart, one story that we may one day find ourselves in.

What are you dreaming of?

P.S.: if you're intending to watch the movie, you'd better do it soon. I'm not sure if it'll still be running in the cinemas next week.

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