Starting Aug 1, Netflix dropped more than 100 Singapore films and TV series on its platform. This was to coincide with Singapore’s 55th birthday on Aug 9. I applaud this move. A big thank you to whoever orchestrated this! One of the films that my wife and I watched over the weekend was ‘Singapore Dreaming’.
This is my umpteenth time watching the movie, and more than 10 years since I last watched it. Singapore cinema is known for its themes revolving around materialism – 5Cs, chasing paper qualification, winning 4D – bread-and-butter stuff. Okay, maybe it’s just Jack Neo’s movies: I Not Stupid, Money No Enough and others. Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen’s ‘Singapore Dreaming’ is one of such films that treads on these familiar topics. I must say the film is still as relevant today as it was when it was first released in 2006, a social commentary of life in Singapore as seen through the average struggling household.
The movie’s premise centres on the son’s return from the States after completing his university studies. The son’s elder sister is married and expecting her first child. Her husband is an ex army officer, turned insurance agent. Dad is the traditional man-of-the-house, a clerk in a law firm. Mum is the traditional homeworker whose daily routine revolves around wiping the table, sweeping the floor, brewing herbal tea, annd cooking. Son’s girlfriend is the faithful and supportive spouse-to-be.
Things are looking mighty fine for the household, when dad wins $2 million dollars in lottery money. But plot twist: there is a death in the household. This exposes rifts in the family and old misgivings. How will the family cope with the fall out?
More than 10 years later, this film still resonates with me, thanks to the awesome performance by the cast: Richard Low and company. What stood out this time is this theme that Singaporean society, in general, is obsessed with appearances – this thing about ‘face’; how some Singaporeans prize material possessions to show off a facade of success. I struggle to understand this facet of Singaporean life, but I also know that it is all too real because I do know Singaporeans that are quite literally the character caricatures painted in the movie. They chase material status symbols, and despise those who are seen as being in the lower rungs of society. The battle between the ‘have’ and ‘have-nots’. An interesting yet tragic reality of life here, told through this phenomenal film. Catch the film on Netflix.