Review - '3688'' by Royston Tan
With its focus on middle aged and elderly characters, it is appropriate for 3688 to call back to cultural markers familiar to the older generation and provide a sort of nostalgic trip. Yet instead of being smoothed with sentimentality, the trip down the memory lane is more akin to a sobering fall into reality as it is facilitated by the senility of the heroine's father. The names of veteran celebrities and radio programmes that have long gone off the air are raised as Mr. Xia makes small talk with a fellow senior citizen in the latter's home; serving as cultural references that tickle our fancy. That is, until we see our heroine Fei Fei watching from outside and forcing herself to accept the evidence of her father being stuck in the past with tears in her eyes. The suggestion that nostalgia is unhealthy is also apparent in the subplot when Fei Fei's old schoolmate returns to Singapore to revisit their old haunts before he dies of a presumably terminal illness. This subplot goes nowhere and aptly enough, Fei Fei, her old schoolmate and their mutual friend Mao Shan end up literally not going anywhere. Their reunion starts and ends at the coffee shop, where the bad news is relayed that each one of their old haunts have been replaced with modern facilities. The most they can do is sit around and reminiscence— once again, the nostalgic trip ends is cut short with reality of losses; the losses evident in the physical landscape in their case and the losses of the mental landscape in the case of Mr. Xia.
Review by Joseline Yu