Wedding films are commonly shaped by a calculated amalgam of all things believed to tug at our heartstrings: father-daughter bonds, the ex’s unrequited love, touching wedding speeches and the schmaltzy fairy tale ending. But all these are veneers, without digging deep into the couple’s relationship. A romcom far away from these irresistible tropes, however, is the riveting local film ‘Cuak’ – a feature-length film weaved together by five directors.
‘Cuak’ hinges on Adam (an endearing, animated Ghafir Akbar) who has second thoughts about his marriage with Brenda (the bold and confident Dawn Cheong). The film opens with a panicky Adam rehearsing the ikrar before his akad nikah (solemnisation) ceremony. A pengapit lelaki asks if he’s okay… and the film hurls into a series of flashbacks: confrontations, the bachelor party, the break-up with an ex-girlfriend, meeting the eccentric in-laws and facing off a distrustful half-brother (not necessarily in that particular order). Although individually shot by different directors, these segments constantly overlap, unravelling the backstory to Adam’s cold feet.
Unlike ‘Paris, je t’aime’ where the lurch from story to story can get a tad tiresome (there are 18 shorts, mind you), ‘Cuak’ flows into a seamless whole although the segments are stylistically different. Even Tony Pietra’s neo-noir provides moments of mirth with a Mandarin-speaking and meat tenderiser-wielding Tony Eusoff, who plays Adam’s half-brother Mikail. Every segment charts the couple’s emotional fluctuations and takes on different relationship issues (trust, tolerance, insecurity, etc) but it’s Shamaine’s story that puts forth a firm conclusion: love is about accepting each other’s differences. Her depiction of the couple is organic, realistic and so intimate that viewers are made privy to the characters’ innermost thoughts. Every dialogue crackles with energy, and the director’s exploration of interracial marriage and religion within contemporary society is instantly relatable.
‘Cuak’ tackles the basic dilemma of an imminent marriage: doubt. And it’s exactly this doubt that’ll gnaw at us in a lifelong commitment. But a film, especially one like this, can help you locate yourself. Through Adam and Brenda, we learn that it’s okay to have qualms; that our parents will take time to approve of the one we love; that married life doesn’t mean the end of courtship. ‘Cuak’ poses all kinds of questions about love, friendship, family and marital fears for which life doesn’t provide reliable answers. It’s a journey that the couple, as well as the audience, has to walk on to find out.
The intricate braiding of characters and storylines has pushed a romcom like ‘Cuak’ into adventurous territory. Some might not like how the different elements and stories cut back and forth in time but we find the film an enjoyable ride with characters you’re never quite sure about. Although the pace tails off just slightly towards the end, this homegrown flick is a warm and honest ode to the vagaries of the heart.
Author: Kong Wai Yeng
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