Film Review: Sometime, Sometime (2020)

As the charmingly meandering title suggests, Sometime, Sometime is not a film packed with action sequences nor any devious dramatic plot twists. It is the type of film that strives to emulate the rhythm, subtleties and nuances of our everyday life. It opens with a rather mundane yet amusing sequence of a middle-aged man rushing for the elevator as his companion lags behind. Subsequent scenes follow such a tone, incorporating the uneventful every day; teenagers loitering outside a store, characters discussing matters over meals or working their rather unexciting jobs. Though my initial description of the film may come off as dull, beneath the mundane surface is a film with a strong thematic core, true to life characters with fascinating depth, and gentle humour that is endearingly engaging. 

Sometime, Sometime, is the debut feature of Malaysian filmmaker Jacky Yeap. It focuses on the uneventful adventures of sixteen-year-old Zi Kien, a young teenager stuck in the transitory period between adolescence and adulthood. Having recently completed his final exams in secondary school, he lives in a brief moment of stasis; unable to move ahead to the next stage of his education as his exam results have yet to be released, yet also unable to continue his old lifestyle as a secondary school student. 

In this transitory phase, he is nudged toward the realm of adulthood, made to consider the various aspects of his future, as well as take on more ‘adult’ responsibilities such as a part-time job and learning how to drive, but perhaps the most fascinating part of Zi Kien’s journey is the look into his evolving relationships with the adult figures in his life, particularly with his mother. 

When Zi Kien comes to realise that his mother, played by the illustrious Tan Chui Mui, has found herself a new lover, he begins to have a greater awareness of her. A particularly striking sequence in the film involves Zi Kien sneakily following his mother and her boyfriend as they head into a hotel to enjoy the privacy of a closed door, and later in the film, a somewhat Freudian tinged sequence occurs with Zi Kien looking over his mother and then going on to stroke her hair as she lies seemingly inebriated after an intoxicating drinking session. The twist of this moment is when Zi Kien’s mother, aware of her son’s growing fascination decides to cut her hair the very next day, creating an interesting dynamic and tension between mother and son. 

Though the ground that Sometime, Sometime treads is not particularly new, what makes it a standout work is the way the film takes this typical coming-of-age premise and transforms it into an experience that stands on its own. The various parts of Zi Kien’s life and world that may appear fascinating and distant at the start, perhaps due to cultural differences, or the initial need to get to know the characters, eventually turns into comforting familiarity, as if one has known these characters for a very long time, perhaps somewhat mirroring how Zi Kien’s relationship with his mother which eventually eases into mutual understanding and normalcy.

It is also undoubtedly helped by Sometime, Sometime's incorporation of balanced humour and interesting moments, such as a subplot involving vehicles getting repeatedly wrecked in a certain parking lot, and well-written characters with much emotional depth that are performed with a great deal of believability. Despite being more than 10 years older than his on-screen role, Jacky Yeap's performance as Zi Kien is astonishingly believable. Though I must confess that his rather weary-looking eyes did give him a little away. 

With the slice-of-life pacing, the everyday scenes that are allowed to linger, the rich performances that capture the nuances of everyday life, and the rather plain aesthetics that seemingly aims to capture moments rather than beautify, Sometime, Sometime is an insightful film that delves into the subtle shifts in relations between parent and child, as well as the disorientation and slight unease of a teenager as he transitions and begins to integrate into society. Its depiction of such is done with such clarity that I could not help but recall my own muddled adolescence. 

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