Thursday, August 13, 2009

Be With Me (2005)

Set in the steel and glass jungles of Singapore, this extraordinary film by Eric Khoo interweaves three simple, straightforward stories and by subtle, restrained application of the filmmaker’s art, transforms them into distinctive and haunting narratives. First we have the story of a portly security guard (Seet Keng Yew) who looks up from his plate of stewed pork long enough to fall madly in love with a leggy young businesswoman (Lynn Poh), and his attempts to express his unrequited and frankly hopeless affections are both hilarious and heartbreaking.

Then we have the story of two adorable teen age girls (Ezann Lee and Samantha Tan) who find that their new friendship soon advances into emotionally treacherous territory neither of them is really equipped to handle. Lastly we have the tale of a social worker (Lawrence Yong) who goes to great lengths to nurture a relationship between his grieving, recently widowed father (Chiew Sung Chin) and one of his clients; an amazing deaf-blind woman (Theresa Chan, who portrays herself).

Chan has risen beyond her daunting handicaps and, by sheer force of will, has scratched and clawed her way to lead a full and productive life. On the surface, the film is quiet, subtle and yes that awful term minimalist, yet the viewer will find it chock full of warmth, humor and, at times, staggering poignancy. Khoo’s directorial style has elements of both Ceylon and Weerasathakul, but with a bit more raw emotion in the mix, along with some surprising and highly effective comic relief. Khoo never telegraphs his punches and every scene in this film has a feeling of freshness and limitless possibility. Be With Me starts quite slowly and may be a bit confusing at first, but the patient viewer will be well rewarded by an absorbing story, and a film unlikely to be soon forgotten.

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