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  Publicity Stills of "Singapore Dreaming"
(Courtesy from GV)

Genre: Drama/Comedy
Director: Colin Goh, Woo Yen Yen
Starring: Richard Low, Alice Lim, Serene Chen, Lim Yu-Beng, Yeo Yann Yann, Dick Su
RunTime: -
Released By: GV
Rating: PG

Opening Day: 7 September 2006

Synopsis :

This is a poignant, yet darkly humorous story about a typical Singaporean family coming to grips with their aspirations. It weaves a layered and moving tale about a family dealing with loss, ambition and the search for what really matters in life.

"SINGAPORE DREAMING" Soundtrack Review

Movie Review:

Colin Goh will always be synonymous with talking cock. The author/lawyer/cartoonist had turned filmmaker with his debut feature with the love-it-or-hate-it Talking Cock: The Movie. Satire is the name of the game when discussing Goh. He founded Singapore’s foremost satirical website (Talkingcock.com), expanded it into CDs, a movie and a dictionary defining Singapore’s colourful patois. He (with the co-direction of his wife) has finally added another notch to his belt with Singapore Dreaming, which first bowed as the curtain raiser for this year’s Singapore International Film Festival and is now gearing up for its island-wide commercial release.

One thing you can be sure of is that this film is no dud. In fact, it’s one of the most richly textured, amusing and expressively lyrical pieces of filmmaking that I have yet seen. It is deceptively astute in its construction of a typically extended Singaporean household. It’s a remarkable and cogent portrayal of family politics by its cast, grounded in emotion and realism. The film should be a significantly different experience for a local compared to a foreigner when viewed, as it’s more an observation for those who have not lived through the system their entire lives. As a local, however, you feel like you’re on the inside looking out. It just means that much more.

Astoundingly layered and ambitious, it encompasses many topical and traditional social issues the country’s populace faces. Cheeky and sharp but never austere or overly grandiose, it simply expounds on these talking points through its characters. It could very well have veered into an hour and a half long social commentary if not for its well-rounded performances and neatly structured plot of a financially struggling family patriarch (Richard Low) suddenly receiving a windfall who finds that money was never the answer he was looking for.

Singapore Dreaming raises several important questions that point to what it means to be Singaporean. The innate similarities that we share as citizens are observed through the actions and desires of the principal cast. Are our aspirations our own? Or is it what we’re taught to want in order to be considered a success? Surely we have asked ourselves these questions at some point in our lives but to hear them articulated aurally and visually while engulfing our celluloid reflections is quite the existential undertaking.

No doubt that one of its main strengths is in its effective communication of the insecurities of most Singaporeans in regards to their wealth, status and that very Asian concept of saving face. But by no means is this a watershed piece in our cinematic jigsaw. The film treads the same path paved with good intentions by Jack Neo’s I Not Stupid, weaving the same cutting wit and poignant moments that we have become accustomed to. However, this film appears both more naturalistic and rhapsodic than it’s thematic predecessor.

Unabashedly catered to local tastes, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention that its humour is in the distinctive vein of Colin Goh’s – subversive, cynical and most importantly, germane. It thankfully stops short of being overly obnoxious in its dig at the Singapore elites and upper-middle class. Not so much of the Monty Python-esque approach undertaken with his first feature, the drollness in this movie is apropos to its ensuing drama and storylines. Speaking of drama, it could have been so easy to run with broadly conceived characters, each playing roles in the script but never filling them out. Fortunately, each character in the film has a unique voice and individual idiosyncrasies, all relevant to every stratum in our society and its glorious racial patchwork.

Ironic that such a quintessential Singaporean film would have such an internationally acclaimed technical crew from the other side of the globe, 2 of whom have even garnered Oscar nominations in their careers. Even with a skeleton crew, it manages to have top-drawer visuals by employing an expressionistic use of colour, giving the film a unique and discrete look by creating stark contrasts between hues.

It’s a sublime and compelling film that speaks to the people’s consciousness. It’s an astutely crafted description of the dynamics of family, success and the status quo. This is just one of those rare films that is more than the sum of its parts, with the right dash of commentary in it. With no chance of upsetting the applecart, as it has already given the thumbs up by President S R Nathan, I would expect this to be nationally embraced. 2006 is a year that should be remembered for the immense critical and hopefully financial success of Singapore’s film industry. With I Not Stupid 2, 4:30, Love Story and now Singapore Dreaming (being more accessible than some of its contemporaries), there’s no dearth of talent in our island nation. We can be damn sure of that.

Movie Rating:

(A terrific film that infuses relevant local social commentary into a great story – a must watch for Singaporeans)

Review by Justin Deimen



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