Director: Colin Goh, Woo Yen Yen
Starring: Richard Low, Alice Lim, Serene
Chen, Lim Yu-Beng, Yeo Yann Yann, Dick Su
Released By: GV
Day: 7 September 2006
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.
DREAMING" Soundtrack Review
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
terrific film that infuses relevant local social commentary
into a great story – a must watch for Singaporeans)
by Justin Deimen