Review - 'Our Sister Mambo' - Written by Michael Chiang, directed by Ho Wi Ding

Cathay Organization turns 80 this year, and what better way to mark the occasion than to make a feature length commercial about it?

Directed by Malaysian-born, Taiwan-based director Ho Wi Ding and screenplay by Michael Chiang (of Army Daze and Private Parts fame), Our Sister Mambo isn’t what you’d call a fresh story. It follows through the lives of a happy, occasionally dysfunctional family – film buff and theatre operations manager father (Moses Lim), competitive property agent mother (Audrey Luo) who must get her say around everything at home, and four daughters (played by Ethel Yap, Michelle Chong, Oon Shu An, Joey Leong, mentioned in order of age) who make surprising choices in love and life. 

That alone pretty much sums up what the plot is about, but that isn’t the film’s selling point. 
Ethnocentric and peppered with colloquial terms that probably only a Singaporean audience could understand, Our Sister Mambo has many funny moments and is well executed with great acting from the cast. Some actors stood out well from the rest in their characters; Audrey Luo’s K-drama loving auntie character, Oon Shu An’s sarong party girl and Nelson Chia’s English speaking China man. Several guest appearances from well-loved local celebrities such as Xiaxue and Jonathan Leong also upped the star factor of the film, making Our Sister Mambo an easy (on the eye) film to watch, despite the verbose bits of Cathay’s facts and history (which were sneakily crafted into the script).

Overall, it felt like Our Sister Mambo was a piece of work that hadn’t met its full potential. The subplots (marrying a divorcee with a kid, dating out of one’s race, leaving a high status job to fulfil one’s passion, an old married couple who had different interests and possibly drifting apart) had their corners rounded off, and further exploration on any of the themes listed would have given the film more bite. But understandably, dwelling deeper might have shifted it out of a PG (Parental Guidance) rating, and make it less family friendly.
For a film that audience members pay full ticket price for, one goes away feeling slightly cheated - for despite the adequate technicalities and passable script, the story is terminally predictable and carries no central conflict. In fact, the best description of it would be a 90-minute film adapted from a Mediacorp drama; yet taking its commemorative provenance in to consideration, one should be slightly forgiving – and accept that despite its long history, Singaporean film is still very much a work in progress.

By Gwen Xu

'Our sister Mambo' is still showing in Cathay cinemas. Check out the movie trailer here.
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