'Respirator' by Michael Tay (FLARE 2009)

Michael shared that he has a penchant for telling stories that carry a fantastical component. In ‘Wet Seasons’, there was a moving skeleton, in ‘Respirator’, the titular object is the centre of the story. The ‘Respirator’ is a revolutionary medical device that can replace a heart. In Chinese, the word used is ‘Metal Heart’. I guess a more romantic sounding name in English would be ‘Respirator’. What I felt made both work is that the human issues interlocked with the fantastical devices are really what props up the drama.
In ‘Respirator’, a child is on the brink of death and the only way to save him is a heart transplant. A doctor pressures his ex-wife (who is the real mother) into doing the operation for guaranteed financial sustenance for an indefinite period. Poor helpless mum, her seeming lack of education about things traps her into a grotesquely complicated looking ‘respirator’. Never mind if I spotted the look of silver paint on cardboard, the issues were riveting (pardon the pun) and the characters throbbing with life. Careful casting paid off well. The mother is a bag of anxiety and her untrained and frail voice is subtly affecting. Boon, the boorish brother redefines ad-libbing with his choppy and crude speech.
I also like Respirator for its brave attempt at a neo-scifi genre, something very much out of reach for many short filmmakers due to budget reaons. In fact, it is not just a brave attempt but a very shrewd and smart attempt. After all, the actual device, at its cheapest could be a composition of materials from your DIY store sprayed with lots of silver paint. But Michael’s clearly milked a fair amount of drama out of it.

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