Director: Jin Ong
Cast: Wu Kang Ren, Jack Tan, Serene Lim, Tan Kim Wang, Bront Palarae, April Chan
Runtime: 1 hr 47 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence and Coarse Language)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Opening Day: 11 January 2024
Synopsis: Abang (older brother) and Adi (younger brother) are native Malaysians but have been living without ID cards. They are stranded at Pudu, which has an ancient wet market. They cannot enjoy the rights and welfare of ordinary citizens, nor can they apply for passports and bank accounts. Abang, the older brother, was born mute and his only goal in life is to work hard and seek a stable life. Adi, on the other hand, is unwilling to resign to his fate and is involved in selling fake IDs, aiming to make fast money and move out with Abang. A kind and enthusiastic social worker named Jia En tried her best to help the brothers apply for a legal identity card. However, a fatal accident happens and places Abang and Adi in dire straits.
The hype is real. Much has been reported about Wu Kang Ren’s performance in this Malaysian movie, but you need to watch it for yourself on the largest screen possible to feel its emotional impact. You will then understand why the Taiwanese actor has been getting rave reviews for his latest film appearance.
The 41 year old actor has been recognised at several film awards for his portrayal as Abang, a deaf mute person without an identification card. This includes the Best Actor accolade at the prestigious Golden Horse Awards held last November, where he was a first time nominee. The 15 second nomination clip played during the award ceremony blew audiences away, especially for those who haven’t watched the film.
Malaysian filmmaker Jin Ong’s debut feature (which he also wrote) puts the spotlight on Abang and his younger brother Adi (Malaysian actor singer Jack Tan, who garnered a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Golden Horse Awards), two stateless individuals who try their best to make ends meet while a social worker (Serene Lim) tirelessly finds ways to get the government to issue them identification cards. The older Abang is down to earth and makes an honest living by taking on odd jobs in Kuala Lumpur’s Pasar Pudu wet market. The younger and more impulsive Adi breaks the law and gets involved in human trafficking which gives him some quick money. He also receives money from an older woman he is sleeping with.
The two men, who are not real brothers, cannot be more different. Yet, under the dire situations and harsh living conditions, they share a tight bond that real siblings may not even not have. They stay in a run down apartment, and spend time with a transgender woman (Malaysian actor Tan Kim Wang, who was nominated for Best Newcomer at the Golden Horse Awards) who takes on a parental role by supporting them since young. When an unexpected death happens, Abang and Adi’s already bleak lives take a turn for the worse.
Ong’s 107 minute movie appears to be a social commentary about the social issues in Malaysia, but it is essentially a human drama about two individuals who only have each other in a world that has been unkind to them. Kartik Vijay’s gritty cinematography, together with Ryota Katayama’s melancholic score accentuate the less than glamourous side of the country, but it is really Wu and Tan’s memorable performances that will stick with you long after the credits roll.
Tan is well cast as a restless and defiant young man who will not leave his fate to circumstance. With Adi’s reckless behaviour, you can expect him to get into trouble frequently. But with Tan’s earnestness, you hope Adi gets the happy ending he deserves.
The highlight of the heartbreaking film is undoubtedly Abang, whose ordeals we feel for. Wu is perfect as the good natured elder brother who has the responsibility of taking care of a reckless younger sibling and standing by his side no matter what happens, even at his own expense. The role has no dialogue in the film, and Wu nails the part by acting with his hand signs, body language and expressions. The heartbreaking one take sequence towards the end of the film where Abang shows his fear, anger and helplessness is a guaranteed tearjerking moment.
(Wu Kang Ren and Jack Tan are perfectly cast in this human drama about the bond between two individuals in a world that has been unkind to them, with Wu delivering a heartbreakingly emotional performance)
Review by John Li