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BE WITH ME (Singapore)
  Publicity Stills of "Be With Me"
(Courtesy from Warner Bros)

Genre: Drama
Director: Eric Khoo
Starring: Theresa Chan, Ezann Lee, Seet Keng Yew, Chiew Sung Ching, Samantha Tan, Lynn Poh
RunTime: 1 hr 33 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: M-18 (Mature Content)

Release Date: 8 September 2005

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“Be With Me” is a tapestry of stories woven around the themes of love, hope and destiny. The characters lead separate lives but are bound by one common desire - to be with their loved one. The protagonists in the movie are fictitious except for Theresa Chan, whose life story inspired “Be With Me.” Deaf and blind since she was 14, Theresa, now 61, has triumphed over her disabilities to live an amazing life.

Movie Review:

An elderly shopkeeper living the twilight of his years in loneliness. A timid security guard pining for unattainable love. A teenager experiencing love, and love lost. These are the 3 storylines intertwined in Be With Me, Eric Khoo's latest feature film which won accolades in Cannes 2005's Director's Fortnight. Inspired by the autobiographical life of Theresa Chan, who became blind and deaf, her tale props the others with inner strength, contrasting their fears and regrets with her courage to live life to the fullest despite her double handicap.

For the young adult audience, most should have no difficulty identifying with the puppy love stage in the So In Love segment. The initial passionate stage that lovers experience with each other, the insecurities that creep in, the fear of losing the other. As fast as love is established through a flurry of SMS messages and online chat sessions, as fast as love is lost through the cessation of communication.

Perhaps this segment is the most talked about, with the focus of love between members of the same gender. Jackie and Sam (note the androgynous names, played by Ezann Lee and Samantha Tan respectively) provide the eye-candy in a tale of modern young love. The expectation of reciprocation and committment from the other half may stifle the relationship, especially
when one is just experimenting with the other. Newcomer Samantha holds her own against the
performance of Ezann (who has TV experience), and without spoken dialogue, kudos to their performances in silence and through body language and facial expressions.

In "Finding Love", another rookie, Seet Keng Yew, stars as Fatty Koh, the timid security guard who admires Ann (played by Lynn Poh), an executive who works in the office he's guarding, from afar. Consciously aware of their social divide, he cannot bring himself to express his feelings for her, and takes to stalking her movements in the office, at play, and from the compounds of her home.

Love as seen from the perspective of the middle aged, this segment continues Eric Khoo's exploration of the working class in Singapore, following the heartlander life of Fatty, his neighbours, his unsupportive family (cult cameo favourite Lim Poh Huat appears with 3
spoken lines) and based in familiar settings like coffeeshops, HDB flats, and the kitchen.

Faced with the lack of courage for face to face communications, Fatty decides to write a letter to
Ann, and even has difficulties coming to terms with and putting down his feelings on paper. But when he finally does, the cruel hand of Fate deals a blow.

"Meant To Be" opens the film, where we see an elderly shopkeeper closing his store, and bringing the audience into the world of his private lonely life. The long wrinkled lines on his face tells you he has experienced much sorrow and loss. He cooks for himself and his wife, but the dishes remain simple. His son, a social worker, drops by only occassionally to visit,
and in one such visit, he brought along the story of Theresa Chan, inspiring his father, and through food, we see that the elderly man found new purpose in life, finally letting go of the loss and pain.

This segment is touted by many as the most powerful of all, as it mixes Theresa Chan's courageous story into itself. We wait with abated breath for the moment the two characters finally meet, and it is a scene so poignant in itself, with little said but just an embrace, bringing across forgiveness and soothe, and tears to many.

Fans of Eric Khoo's short films will know that the elderly man, played by Chiew Sung Ching, had starred in an earlier short film "Symphony 92.4FM", a role in which calls for an acting range quite similar to the one in Be With Me, a role written by Eric with Chiew specifically in mind, spending 6 months tracking him down to star in this film.

We've seen each character faced with communication challenges, and each are without physical handicap. And here lies the strength of Theresa Chan's story. Be With Me is essentially a silent film, and the use of subtitles to narrate the story of Theresa brings close to home an example of how silent and dark Theresa's world is. Physically that is. Which doesn't stop the strong lady's indomitable will to live life to the fullest, and to help others along the way.

It is simply amazing to see her go about daily chores with ease, and taking on mentorship roles in being a teacher in the school for the blind. It makes the audience sit up and ponder about life, and the naturally tendency to take our senses for granted, of being unfulfilled with many unnecessary wants and desires, forgetting the simple pleasures of life and living life.

Never had a local film touch so many facets of life, in love, sorrow, loss and inspiration. Be With Me is truly a masterful classic which commands a place in Singapore's film history. Watch this.

Movie Rating:

(Truly an amazing journey of life, love, loss and an inspiration to guide us all)

Review by Stefan Shih

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