The numerous accolades, including the Camera d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival and the Critics' Pick honor from The New York Times, for the 2013 Singapore drama "Ilo Ilo" support the theory that this is one of the best ever entries in the Unreal TV adored (international independent) Film of the Month Club that Film Movement operates. Non-members can buy the DVD of the film beginning September 16, 2014.
The brilliantly executed simple concept of "Ilo" is that the financially comfortable double-income one kid (DIOK) Lim family hires a live-in maid to help pregnant mother Hwee Leng contend with very unruly 10-year-old Jialer and the household duties of Hwee Leng. The selected candidate is 20-something Terry from the titular region of the Philippines. Setting this story during the 1997 Asian financial crisis adds to the drama.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the spoiler-laden for "Ilo" nicely conveys the themes and tones of this film.
Like most of the club films, one thing that makes "Ilo" so special is that it could be filmed verbatim and shot-for-shot (and set in current times) in the United States and still be both as good and as relevant.
The prejudices that Hwee Leng shows in commenting at the outset that she does not want a Malaysian maid and in immediately confiscating Terry's passport on the arrival of Terry in the household so that Terry will not bolt are very common in the United States. Hwee Leng shows further universal meanness in having Terry essentially sleep on a mattress on the floor of the bedroom of Jialer.
First-time feature film director Anthony Chen, who is on the Variety list of 10 Directors to Watch, does an excellent job portraying the daily lives of the family and the efforts of Terry to do her job and adjust to this difficult household. The performances, down to the subtleties in the facial expressions, are perfect. Further, the pacing is just right despite largely merely depicting the daily lives of a typical (initially) upwardly mobile family.
The parallel events that provide much of the drama in "Ilo" are the increasingly strong bond that develops between Jialer and Terry and the aforementioned crisis hitting increasingly close to home. Seeing the impact of both on Hwee Leng throughout the film makes is compelling.
Seeing the larger impact of the financial crisis on the family hits even closer to home during the current tough economic climate in America. Many previously financially secure households are facing having to make cutbacks that equal or exceed those of the Lims in the film.
The especially apt monthly short film is a very creative (and slightly creepy) animated production called "Blik" from the Netherlands. The silent movie tells the story of the new kid in town falling in love with a slightly older woman. The twist at the end is particularly cute.
Other special features include a "making of" documentary regarding "Ilo" and the theatrical trailer for the film.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Ilo" is strongly encouraged to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.