Wet Season

Dept. of Seasonal Singaporean Sadness


Wet Season, Anthony Chen’s follow up to Ilo Ilo, portrays the life of a put upon Mandarin teacher at a Singaporean school, as her reality slowly crumbles around her.

The only control Ling (Yann Yann Yeo) seems to have in her life is in her classroom. Her husband Andrew (Christopher Ming-Shun Lee) is almost completely absent from their relationship – as well as nearly the first half of the film – and he grows ever more distant as their repeated attempts to conceive fail.

Her days consist of drudgery at a school where she is underappreciated by both her students and the other teachers, and taking care of Andrew’s incapacitated father in the afternoons. She slowly develops a friendship of sorts with Wei Lun (Jia Ler Koh), a student in her remedial Mandarin class, after giving him a lift home in the monsoon season rains. Neglected by his parents, they each provide some lightness in each other’s lives.

Ooh Yes I Wish It Would Rain, Down On Me

Yann Yann Yeo and Jia Ker Loh in Wet Season.
Yann Yann Yeo and Jia Ler Koh square off

While Chen captures the feeling of living a relatively comfortable yet tough life in Singapore for a Malaysian, for large swathes of the movie I kept asking myself “Just what is this film about?” What is Chen trying to say with this?

That we should be more proactive in our lives? Ling surrenders to every new obstacle with little or no protest.

That our chosen friends and family can sometimes trump our actual families? Ling barely fights for either.

Something about the plight of a Malaysians in Singapore? While Ling’s life is sad it’s by no means hard.

Any deeper message about the relationship between Malaysia and Singapore is extremely muddled, as the majority of references to their neighbours to the north consist of TV and Radio broadcasts covering protests against corruption there. Ling’s mother and brother pop up ever so often, but just to annoy her over how much better life is in Singapore, or when they’re looking for money.

Yes You Know I Wish It Would Rain, Rain Down On Me

Shi Bin Yang and Yann Yann Yeo in Wet Season.
Shi Bin Yang & Yann Yann Yeo

With that said, the actors are very engaging. Yann Yann Yeo netted the Best Actress award at the Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan for her role as Ling, and captures the stoic resignation of her position in life.

Shi Bin Yang was also nominated in the role of Ling’s invalid father-in-law and he delivers a beautiful, subtle performance. Initially he seems to be incapable of any communication, but he slowly reveals his character though whatever tiny actions left to him.

Ling’s husband Andrew, on the other hand, is far too lightly sketched, coming off as almost cartoonishly evil.

Just Rain Down On Me

Yann Yann Yeo and Jia Ker Loh in Wet Season.
This will not end well.

Ling’s relationship with Wei Lun is heartwarming at first before taking an extremely dark turn, but the film doesn’t seem to want to examine the repercussions of that too closely either. Wei Lun is very much a child but Ling is far from the adult in the relationship.

Her eventual situation at the end of the movie feels like a punch line to some sick joke.

I’m not saying that every movie has to be upbeat, or about something major. Far from it. Films like Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman, or Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible, examine horrifying personal events revealing a lot about their cultures, countries, and directors. Unfortunately the only message I came away with from Wet Season was that life in Singapore was kind of awful and you are better off moving back to a simpler life in Malaysia.

Wet Season
103 minutes
Director: Anthony Chen
Writer: Anthony Chen
Cast: Yann Yann Yeo, Jia Ler Koh, Shi Bin Yang, Christopher Ming-Shun Lee, and Sue Tan

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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