GUANG (光) (2018)

Genre: Drama
Director: Quek Shio Chuan
Cast: Kyo Chan, Ernest Chong, Emily Zying
RunTime: 1 hr 29 mins
Rating: PG (Some Sexual References)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Official Website: 

Opening Day:
14 March 2019

Synopsis: Guang is the inspirational story of Wen Guang, an autistic young man who struggles to integrate in a society that discriminates against him. Even with his brother’s help, Wen Guang finds it difficult to hold a decent job. One day, his prodigious talent for music emerges...

Movie Review:

Please give your full support to this impressive debut feature from Malaysian director Quek Shio Chuan. Because you will not regret it.

Based on a short film of the same name Quek directed in 2011, this 89 minute movie excels in ways more than one. Inspired by his own experiences with an elder autistic brother, Quek has made a film that is authentic and speaks louder than many high budget blockbusters out there.

The story’s protagonist is Wen Guang, a grown man who has autism. His younger brother (known only affectionately as Didi, which means younger brother in Mandarin) tries all ways and means to get him hired, and the attempts repeatedly fail. Wen Guang is obsessed with hunting down objects that can produce perfect audio tones, and this leads to one misadventure after another.

A film about autism can easily fall into an exploitatively sentimental tearjerker, but this production knows better than to do just that. There are several comical moments in the film that will make you smile without feeling sorry for with the situation. The banter between the two brothers sound like what two siblings in real life would argue over. The screenplay has definitely benefited from Quek’s own interactions with his brother.

The film is also gorgeously shot. Local viewers should be able to resonate with the worn out flat, the retro coffee shops and the bustling street culture that form the backdrops of the touching story. Instead of painting a drab picture which may further bog down audiences, the colours are often lavish as we see the world through Wen Guang’s eyes. There are some wonderfully edited sequences involving music as well. Without giving away too much, let’s just say these scenes will leave you smiling from ear to ear.

The casting is also spot spot on. Instead of featuring well known starrs, the director put two relatively unknown Malaysian theatre and television actors in the spotlight. Kyo Chen plays Wen Guang, wihle Ernest Chong takes on the role of his younger brother. The two men deliver impressive performances. Chen does not descend into a sad caricature, while Chong’s likeable persona helps him pull off an otherwise sympathetic character. The chemistry between the two actors is perfect. Whether they are having a child like quibble, or are breaking down after an emotional outburst, you will be moved by the relationship between the two brothers.

There are also some believable supporting characters like a caring female friend, and a mahjong kaki who may unleash harsh words but is always ready to support you when you need help. These remind you of real people around you.

The film explores the different aspects of caring for someone with special needs. How inclusive as a society are we? Are there social safety nets to ensure that needs are well taken care of? Are caregivers’ dreams put on hold? These are the questions that may set you thinking as the movie progresses, while it constantly engages you with solid performances, and most importantly, a poignant tale of human relationships, acceptance and hope.

Movie Rating:

(You will laugh, you will cry. And you will be moved by this sincere film about acceptance and hope.)

Review by John Li

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