Review – 'Mudita: Selfless Joy' by Melvin Chan

If following a true calling fulfills one's inner joy, how do you say 'no' to your own parent when he or she decides to devote in entirety to God? How do you make sense of loss when it feels like you're about to lose everything or every one you are left with?

'Mudita: Selfless Joy' explores a personal journey of a son, Melvin, seeking means to understand his parents' emotional divorce and his mother's newfound devotion. He learns to cope with displacement and eventually, uncovers that his mother's sacrifice of mind, body and spirit reaches out to a greater good.

Although he couldn't necessarily accept or understand the missing logic or meaning yet, he doesn't protest by showing a slight hint of frustration. Instead, from time to time, he would go to his mother and help around as much as he can or soak in her embracing energy. He stands by watching the delirious faces of followers looking up to his mother as a source of hope and renewed faith.

Quite ironically to him because, in his eyes, she is a mother with young children waiting at home and had just come out from a failed relationship. In his point of view, he feels that he needs his mother more urgently than anyone else in the temple. At the same time, he is amazed at how this woman harmonize her divine calling and bitter realities of life. His quiet mannerisms are deafening on screen as he gingerly fits the puzzles in his head while breaking waves of emotions inside him.

In one scene, his mother recounts the moment when she asked the children if they would allow her to carry on with the virtuous quest. They nervously quips “just do whatever that makes you happy”. This was the turning point in the film when we see the courage of her young children, as confused and dumbfounded as they are, being able to come to terms with being selfless for their mother's joy in serving her higher purpose.

The best thing about the film is the uncut and unedited conversations between the characters. The way that the Chan family is able to let their walls down and welcome audience into their home is certainly endearing. Not harping too much on what was lost or broken at the beginning, this film manages to pull out fresh perspectives as to what Melvin can make the best out of what he still have.

This film was also screened as part of the 6th Singapore Indie Doc Fest.

Review by Haswani

Haswani is both a ninja and crazy bunny on the loose. She has fallen hopelessly in love with filmmaking on the last semester in Uni and tells herself that she needs to marry a Hollywood actor (read: Ryan Gosling) to finance her filmmaking studies in Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. If further studies doesn't work out, she will focus on perfecting her lethal karate chops and deadly weapon-throwing moves.
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