Be With Me

2005, Movie, NR, 93 mins

Review

BE WITH ME
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Singaporean writer-director Eric Khoo's third feature is a beautiful, contemplative study of love — unrequited, unfulfilled and reborn. Elegantly shot and with relatively little dialogue, the film comprises three tenuously related short films that center on the real-life figure of Theresa Chang (the details of her life and sections of her memoir feature prominently in the film), a now elderly woman who lost first her hearing, then her eyesight, at a young age. Growing up without the benefits of basic sensory experience, Chang nevertheless embarked on a career not unlike that of Helen Keller's: With the help of a series of mentors who believed in her potential, Chang attended the Singapore School for the Visually Handicapped then, after managing to learn English, attended Boston's famed Perkins School for the blind in Watertown, Mass. Chang now teaches at the Singapore School, and her strong, independent spirit and the ways in which she survived the death of her one true love serves as the inspiration behind Khoo's three interlocking stores. In "Meant to Be," the father (Chiew Sung Ching) of Chang's social worker (Lawrence Yong) pulls the grate closed on his small grocery shop and returns home to prepare food for his ailing wife (Leong Kooi Eng), a woman who exists more as a phantom of the father's grieving heart than an actual person. His son, who's translating Theresa Chang's memoir, encourages him to read her manuscript and start cooking his delicious meals for Theresa instead of a ghost. In "Finding Love," a slovenly, obese security guard nurses an intense but hopeless crush on Ann (Lynn Poh), a beautiful woman who works in the building he helps monitor. When he's fired for falling asleep on the job, the security guard begins following Ann around the city as she dates far more handsome and successful men. Undaunted, the security guard buys flowered stationery and struggles to express himself in a love letter. In the third and most successful of Khoo's three films, Jackie (Ezann Lee), a young high-school student falls desperately in love with another girl whom she meets online. Jackie and Sam share a love for Brian Wilson and Shaw Brothers movies, and their relationship unfolds through a series of Internet chats and text messages — until Sam suddenly stops returning Jackie's calls. Sam, it turns out, has fallen for a boy (Jason Tan) and is giving Jackie the brush-off in the cruelest way possible. Devastated, Jackie grows despondent and suicidal. Khoo's does a beautiful job charting the ups and downs of young love, and if Jackie's and the security guard's destinies collide in a far too literal way to be truly effective, it's a marvelous depiction of desolation and heartbreak. (In English, Mandarin, Hokkien and Cantonese) leave a comment --Ken Fox

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