Review: A teacher. A student. ‘Wet Season’ delicately lets the storyplot unfold
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Just describing the particular plot of Anthony Chen’s “Wet Season, ” Singapore’s Oscar entry this year, doesn’t do justice to the effectiveness of how carefully the story originates. This is a familiar narrative which could easily turn tawdry: Ling (Yann Yeo), disappointed in her marriage, gets to be close with one of the girl students, Wei Lun (Koh Jia Ler), their connection pushing the boundaries from the teacher/student relationship. Writer-director Chen, along with the two leads, delicately navigates this story, and the result is something seriously humanist and nuanced rather than sensational, though the rainy milieu adds drama to the procedures.
Chen discovered Jia Ler at age 12, throwing him in his 2013 film “Ilo. ” Right now, at 20, playing benefit school student Wei Lun, he’s both observant plus boyishly impulsive, the expressive id to the reserved, silently tormented ego of Ling. Yeo played Jia Ler’s mother in “Ilo, ” and there’s some thing maternal in the way she relates to him in her overall performance here, especially because Ling longs for a child. The lady administers hormone shots within the car before work plus dutifully shows up for her IVF appointments even after her neglectful, philandering husband, Andrew (Christopher Ming-Shun Lee), has halted accompanying her. She channels her caretaking energy directly into those who gladly receive this: her elderly father-in-law (Shi Bin Yang), and Wei Lun, whom she assigns remedial lessons in her Chinese language class.
In each other, the lonely Ling and Wei Lun find what they are missing: to care for and to be cared for, equally. But the murky nature of their relationship doesn’t simply test the limits from the classroom, and Chen depicts every awkward moment with honesty. “Wet Season” is really a portrait of a repressed and oppressed woman learning to nick away at her unseen confines, and within that is a story of generations; the end of life and the beginning of life, and the often messy complexities of everything that happens in between.
In Mandarin, English and Hokkien, along with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Actively playing: Starts April 30, Laemmle Monica, Santa Monica, and in limited release where theaters are open; also available on Laemmle Virtual Cinema