2SSFA - 'The Highest Stakes' by Gavin Ramoutar

A casually dressed father resting on the living room sofa on an ordinary day, suggesting unemployment, a responsible housewife who manages the family's purse and typical young daughter who seeks attention from her distracted father. A phone call comes, he looks troubled yet surreptitious and you get the whole picture. Mouths need to be fed and the father owes money. But even the most done-to-death loanshark story can be given a new lease of life.

This is where director Gavin Ramoutar understands the magic of character quirks as a visual motif and a narrative tool. In this case, the daughter has the quirk - she likes playing underneath the table, like it was her tent, her little abode. This quirk is the film's pivot. It helps register the beginning and signals the ending. The man who has to go out was forced by his wife to take his daughter. Shots of the Sunday stampede at Little India provide a clue to the later development that daughter would get lost, at which point, a halo of an epiphany hovers above enlightening you on why the film is titled so. In fact, what's delightful about this film is that visual metaphors are effortless. The bustle of a crowd of foreigners seeking fortunes in Singapore, the familiar 'wheel of fortune' near Rowell Road, the menacing traffic, all add to story's visual fabric, without trying too hard. And amidst the chaos that's Little India, here is the director who is not lost to the drama and madness but sure-footedly completes his narrative loop.

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