an acute meditation on the need for love and human contact
Xiao Wu is an impish youth, left to depend on the care of his Korean uncle, by way of a mother forever away on business in Beijing. Only it is in the still of the night that is 4:30 am, that Xiao Wu helps himself to the property of Jung; a man who either doesn't notice or doesn't care about the disappearance of his earthly possessions.
And that's just the point. For it soon becomes apparent that Jung has given up on life, only to fail at suicide on more than one occasion. Then again, it is all but obvious that Xiao Wu has become fixated on this man of few words, whose habit of escaping life by way of drink, equates to more than just 'drunken easy prey' for the thieving ways of a boy desperately trying to reach out and connect with this man of mystery. Question is, will they ever get to talk to each other?
And that's the central issue here, given co-writer and '15' director Royston Tan takes delight in weaving a tale in which relatively few words are spoken between the stars of the show. Thus what you are left with is the story of a man and a teenage boy who come to share the bond of solitude. Achingly directed by Tan, the loneliness that both have in common is hauntingly realistic, even in the scenes in which the two are together, the emotional distance between them is all too clear. What is somewhat uncertain however is Jung's identity; for is he a tenant, the uncle or even the boys' father?
Whatever your view be, Young-jun Kim as Jung emotionally portrays the desperation of life at the end of lonely street, if not literally at the end of a rope. But it is Xiao Li Yuan as Xiao Wu who holds this work together, giving a natural bilingual performance, in a film that if it were not for the school scenes and television dialogue, would be bordering on a silent movie.
Laced with a series of long / overlong takes, Tan triumphs in delivering a Singapore art-house film, contemplative style. For this, at heart, is an acute meditation on the need for love and human contact. Ultimately it's quite sad. But then at times, so too is life itself.
screened as part of the 21st London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival 2007