SGIFF Review - Ms J Contemplates Her Choice by Jason Lai

As the film opens, beautifully shot landscapes roll into view – we see a girl, standing only in her undergarments contemplatively towelling dry her just washed hair – the backdrop is strikingly bare. We hear the sound of a driving car, then a loud crash. Enhanced by beautiful cinematic shots, it is immediately captivating.

With such an almost poetic opening scene, my senses and expectation for the film is peaked. I felt that the adult actors – especially Kit Chan and Xiang Yun – were very effective throughout the film. Kit Chan plays a mother, sharing a flat with Xiang Yun – both single parents trying to make a working and decent living while bringing up their respective daughter and son. The relationship between the two women form the emotional backbone of the film which is used very effectively until the final frame - it anchors the storyline as past and present events are revealed.

Bobby Tonelli plays a conscientious DJ who acts as an effective foil to the more psychological aspects of the storyline. This is especially on the sudden appearance of an anonymous caller with a rather twisted hidden agenda. I felt that the characterisations of the DJ, radio producer and station manager could have been much further developed.

I certainly enjoyed the high production values of the movie which featured beautiful close-ups and interesting cinematic angles. It certainly elevated and provided a very professional polish to the experience.

There was also directional clarity as the three interspersed narratives eventually merged to provide a strong intersectional climax point.

With so much going for the film, I found myself very much rooting for its success. Unfortunately I did however get distracted by a number of elements that could have perhaps been tightened. Firstly, the film looked to try to bridge art house and psychological thriller – at times it was very successful with wide dramatic scenes that interrupted moments of suspense, however at times it felt that the psychological pace was slowed down as a compromise, diluting some of the built tension. I also felt that the story raised a number of questions which were left unanswered – these included Ms J’s life story that led to her having a daughter as well as the resolution for the anonymous caller.

I am certainly very heartened to see a local film take on complex forms with non-conventional twists and adult themes. That taken together with high production values certainly makes this film worth a trip to the cinema. I certainly hope to see this film garner deserved exposure while eagerly anticipating Jason Lai's next project.

Review by Ivan Choong

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