Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Film Review: Ilo Ilo, Not Just an Asian Movie

See it on IMDB
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Ilo Ilo, the story of a Filipina maid hired to care for the spoiled child of a Singaporian family may be difficult to get through in the first moments as the child’s behavior is so unpleasant, but this powerful story about a crisis-ridden family during the 1998 Asian financial crash comes though with flying colors.

Ilo Ilo is the first full-length feature for Singaporian director Anthony Chen and the interview with Chen and comments from the cast in the extras on the DVD is worthwhile.  Ilo Ilo is not a “localized” movie as one cast member pointed out. It is not an “Asian” film or a “Singaporian” one; it is about family life and the reality of it, the struggles, the tension, the goings on behind closed doors.

Ilo Ilo is about human relations, the day-to-day existence under pressure that is common to humanity. It is about class, struggles at work and the sacrifices workers in poor countries and communities make to feed their families and their own children by looking after the children of others. One cannot help being reminded of the brutal conditions Filipino and other maids have endured working for the wealthy in Saudi Arabia and other countries although there is no such comparison here.

It is somewhat autobiographical as Chen himself was raised by a maid from the age of 8 to 12 and he points out that by far, these experiences for the children of working parents are more often than not positive ones.

The cast, from the maid played by a well known Filipina actor to the boy and the parents, are real people living their lives as so many families do. The scene with the maid washing the young boy in the shower and the interplay between them, I am not sure they would have been the same if Ilo Ilo was an American made movie. We are known to blurr butt cracks here in the US, even of 10 year olds.

This is a wonderful, powerful film that will not be contained by borders, nationality, language or other social obstructions. It is however in Mandarin and Tagalog so the viewer is faced with subtitles which will unfortunately, along with limited circulation as there’s not enough explosions and violence in it, mean millions of Americans will never see this film.

If we want to “Make America Great Again” it might help if Americans watched more movies like Ilo Ilo.

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