'Garden Girls' by Ric Aw - SIFF

I call them Girl-in-Blue and Girl-in-Green. Girl-in Blue (played by Magdalene Tan) is lithe, pint-sized post-polytechnic vulnerable little floating weed who does not seem to have an occupation or direction. Girl-in-Green (played by Adele Wong from 'The Day') seems like a richer, well-bred, more independent specie of the a 'Garden Girl'. It is not entirely clear how they got together and given that the chances of 2 femme-lesbians being so fond of each other is slim, this seems puzzling.



In 'Garden Girls', GIG and GIB spend their last poolside dip and bikini exhibition together. GIG has to leave Singapore for something and because of that, they decide to go for a walk in the garden. Meanwhile, they have a grungy, pony-tailed male neighbour who is going through a divorce and by chance catches a sight of them. So he too trails their footsteps in the Botanic Gardens..... with a camera! At this point, it was difficult for me not to start imagining Ric in that pony-tail, with that camera hung from his shoulders, furtively following them. And good heavens, there was no effort at any form of mimicry, and the girls were not complaining either!



While GIG and GIB massaged and whet the visual appetite of the audience (some), it was difficult to understand them beyond the cliches of a separating couple. Apart from well-wishes made by throwing green apples into the lake, very little is transpired between them other than bodily brushes. Not very much is established about the dynamics of their relationship. Why GIG is leaving? What GIB is going to do when GIG is gone? Similarly, the matter of the neighbour (Sunny Pang) divorce seems a transient pretext for him to engage on his voyeuristic journey of shooting the two girls in all poses of affection.


It is interesting how a few directors have repeated the narrative of lesbian girl deviating to straight men. Be With Me might have set a precedent for this. Women seem to be portrayed as fragile beings who need to cling on to something. A more general interpretation could be a display of human fragility and how a need for companionship transcends gender. if it was a gay couple, the man's deviation is often portrayed as driven by attraction and less by need for protection or solace as in GIB's case. Which in fact makes 'Garden Girls' quite sexist on closer look. But taking away these overly complex analysing, it is also really just a simple tale about friendship.

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