[TIFF 2019] REVIEW - Wet Season (Anthony Chen)
It’s been six years since Anthony Chen made his award-winning feature film debut, Ilo Ilo, and he finally returns to the cinematic stage with a new endeavouring effort. Wet Season is a welcome return to cinema from one of Asia’s most talented young filmmakers.
Set in the midst of Singapore’s rainy season, the film centers on an elementary school teacher (Yeo Yann Yann) who forms a seemingly innocent relationship with one of her students (Koh Jia Ler). As their relationship grows in complexity, so does the life and people around them.
What makes Wet Season such a memorable film is Chen’s decision to double down on examining the intricacies of human emotions in our pursuit for connection and happiness. Whether you agree or disagree with the two protagonists’ relationship with each other, there’s a sense of heartfelt empathy that fails to escape one’s barometer. In a sense, it’s one of the best portrayals of loneliness in recent memory, which is only amplified by juxtaposing these feelings with a young boy’s blossoming – and subsequent loss of – innocence. To say that the emotions felt here are complicated would be a huge understatement.
Credit must be given to the two leading performers, who reunite after an equally impressive effort in Ilo Ilo. It’s interesting that the two played mother and son in their last outing together, as that surely helped add buoyancy to their current collaboration. There’s something natural about the way Yeo and Koh interact with each other, which ends up helping to ground the film when the story starts shifting in a more dramatic direction.
While the main relationship of the film certainly takes center stage, the supporting players are also utilized in a beautiful way. The husband and father-in-law characters, specifically, form direct and indirect bonds with both of the primary characters, and end up offering some hard hitting emotional notes throughout the film. In the end, there’s no questioning that Wet Season is all about relationships, both the big and small ones in life.
Anthony Chen doesn’t make movies nearly as often as he should, and his first two films should be more than enough evidence that this statement is absolutely true. Similar to Ilo Ilo, Wet Season doesn’t shy away from exposing deep and complex emotions. More importantly, there’s also a sense that Chen is capturing the thoughts and emotions of Singapore culture in some way, even if a foreign viewer might not be able to catch all the hidden subtleties. There’s a lot to unpack in a film like Wet Season, and it's something that will surely stick with you for a very long time.