Timeout Singapore Film Review: Ah Mah
Dir Anthony Chen 2006. Singapore. 14 mins. In Mandarin, Hokkien and English with English subtitles.
Chen is an Ngee Ann Polytechnic almunus, and his graduation short, ‘G-23’, screened at the Singapore International Film Festival in 2005. ‘Ah Mah’ is his second outing and also has festival cred – it premiered last year at Cannes. Despite the pedigree, however, it still feels like an amateur home-made video.
A poignant short film about a grand-mother’s impending death, ‘Ah Mah’ deals with how a family copes with the reality of losing a loved one. Beneath their awkward façade of bravery, we see adults break down in private, juxtaposed against the presence of solemn children at play with little comprehension of the concept of death.
Dialogue is sparse and contrite, with a vague attempt at creating a pervasive sense of hopelessness. The acting falls short and depicts unrealistic local life, trying a little too hard to create a bleak ambience using grey monotones. The treatment (of the film) is neither old nor new, and the time setting actually seems a bit confused. The cast looks modern, but the stylised sets span several decades.
In the end, ‘Ah Mah’ is nothing to shout about. Yes, its topic has a universal relevance that certainly tugs at the heart-strings, but the set, cast and direction could do with some polishingah mah, anthony chen, film review, singapore, timeout