The exquisite family dramas of the late Edward Yang (2000’s Yi Yi in particular) are never far from mind—and sometimes even matched—in Singaporean director Anthony Chen’s feature debut, a satisfying beam of compassion. Working from an original script, he sets up a quartet of tense, realistic characters barely making it through Asia’s 1997 financial crisis. Teck (Chen Tian Wen) and his wife, Hwee (Yeo Yann Yann), are stinging from the economic bite, the former secretly unable to confess his recent firing. Their wayward ten-year-old son, Jiale (Koh Jia Per), is a larger headache than your typical Macaulay Culkin tyke, while a new Filipina nanny (Angeli Bayani, the movie’s anchor) accidentally drives a wedge between mother and scamp.
None of this is pushed into comic relief—the filmmaker lets his drama play out with gentleness—and you smile at the many evolutions. Bath times become moments for frankness, squabbles spike into fury and forgiveness, and the work of keeping a clan together presses on, as it does.
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