A bratty ten-year-old boy and his tough-minded Filipina nanny have a rocky but ultimately rewarding relationship — which ultimately threatens the bond between the boy and his mother — in this soulful and sensitive autobiographical feature debut from Singaporean filmmaker Anthony Chen.
Soulful, subtle, and sensitive, this autobiographical feature debut from Anthony Chen makes good on the promise of the twenty-nine-year-old Singapore director's acclaimed and award-winning short films.
Set during the Asian financial crisis of 1997, Ilo Ilo tells the story of an ordinary Singapore family struggling under increasing economic and domestic pressure. Teck Lim (Chen Tian Wen) has lost his job as a sales executive, but he can't quite bring himself to tell his family. Hwee Leng (Yeo Yann Yann), his wife, is pregnant, but still works full-time at a gruelling secretarial job. Ten-year-old Jiale (Koh Jia Ler), the couple's only child, seems to respond to the rising tensions by acting out at school, at home and in the streets, so his parents hire Terry (Angeli Bayani), a Philippine nanny, to help look after him.
Jiale immediately sets about tormenting Terry — he unsuccessfully attempts to get her arrested for shoplifting. Terry decides not to squeal on Jiale, opting to negotiate with him directly instead. Not one to take such abuse lightly, she speaks to the boy matter-of-factly, letting her anger be known. It's a rocky start to what will prove to be a rewarding relationship — so rewarding that it will come to threaten the relationship between Jiale and his mother.
Named for the Philippine province from
which Terry hails, Ilo Ilo is a tender, unobtrusive
study of cultural, generational, and
familial relations, and the way nannies can
at times slip inadvertantly into the roles
of surrogate mothers. More generally, Ilo
Ilo is about the many ways people connect
and come to better understand each other's
personal trials. It is a truly remarkable
statement from one of Asian cinema's new