Set during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Ilo Ilo tells the story of the Lim family, which consists of a father, a mother, and a troublesome young child, Jiale. Living as a comfortable member of the middle class, Teck and Leng both work to keep it that way, leading them to hire Teresa, a Filipino immigrant, as their maid and nanny. At first Teresa struggles to adjust to her new lifestyle in Singapore,especially when it comes to containing Jiale from his numerous, juvenile antics. Eventually Theresa and Jiale begin to get along, forming a mother-son type bond, but with the economy being so volatile, it's only a matter of time until this new formed bond is challenged by change. Anthony Chen's Ilo Ilo is a well-crafted family drama that succeeds because of its attention and respect of its various characters. From the two parents, Teck and Leng, to Theresa and Jiale, every one of them is examined, showing their strengths an weaknesses. There is an impressive amount of intimacy throughout this narrative, as we see each character's vunerability revealed from the uncertainty of the world around them. The most interesting relationship of the film revolves the triangle of Leng, Theresa, and Jiale. Leng is a strong individual who prides herself on her steady job and the support it provides for Jiale. A stern mother, she cares immensely about her sons well-being but as Theresa and Jiale grow closer, Liang's own maternal vulnerability comes into focus. Other characters go through other challenges, with Chen showing an ability to tap into every character's hopes and fears. Anthony Chen's Ilo Ilo is a simple yet impressive first feature by the writer-director, delivering an intimate portrait of various family dynamics.
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