Release Date: 19 May 2013
Directed by: Anthony Chen
Ilo Ilo is a movie about a boy who is neglected by his parents as they’re both busy with work, and hence this mother hires a maid to look after him and help out with the household chores.
The film opens during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, when the country is going through recession, hence we see the stress JiaLe’s parents are going through as they struggle to keep their jobs.
At the beginning of the film, JiaLe rebels against the idea of having a maid as it was akin to having a stranger in the house. He even comes up with all sorts of pranks hoping to get the maid to quit or give up. But alas, one day JiaLe takes a fall (cause he was being unneccesarily stubborn) and now has to rely on Terry (his domestic helper) to help him shower. This event turns their relationship around and they started getting closer and JiaLe gets more attached to her. Of course, Mummy Lim notices this and starts displaying signs of jealousy.
The movie seemed to be centred around foreign workers rights, dealing with the issue of the humane treatment of domestic helpers. While Jia Le treats Terry as part of the family, you can see that Hwee Leng does not. For example, when the Lims were invited to a family dinner, Teck apologises to Terry there were not enough seats for her at the table to dine with everyone else. Hwee Leng actually chides Teck saying “why are you apologising”. Another instance was when Hwee Leng asks Terry to choose a cup for herself but ends up making the choice for her anyway simply because “plastic won’t break”.
The movie also reflects the somewhat unhealthy work-life balance Singaporeans have. The government wants Singaporeans to have more kids but at the same time, the cost of living is so high. On top of that, parents are also unable to spend enough time with their children even if they have them.
I think the part of the movie that hit home was when Jia Le saw a photo of Terry’s baby and asked how could she leave her baby and go overseas to work, to which she replies “then why did your mother get a stranger look after her son”. I believe this is a scenario many of us are familiar with. I myself grew up with my grandmother, she was the one who raised me and took care of me while my parents were away at work and hence I’m extremely attached to her.
Overall the movie was actually pretty good for a Singaporean film. I actually enjoyed it more than I expect I would have. Hopefully Singapore will produce better films in future.
Verdict: Treat yo maid well. Understand thy mother.