FILM REVIEW: Waiting Room
DIRECTOR: Nicole Midori Woodford
SYNOPSIS: Waiting Room tells the story of Tommy Yu, a man who opens up his life and home to help those who are all alone in their last hours. The film is a poetic reflection on death, and friendship. It shows the human bond between Tommy and those who left, through the simplicity of his gestures.
Review by Hubert Lawrence Yeo
Not many people know this, but one-room flats in Singapore are still a common sight around certain mature estates like Toa Payoh, Ang Mo Kio and Chinatown. These small dwellings, which usually measure around 30 square metres, are largely occupied by people who live alone, most of whom are elderly folk. It is exceedingly tragic when they pass on with no one taking notice or care of them. Waiting Room by Nicole Midori Woodford draws the plight of elderly folk who have been living by their lonesome, and the compassion and benevolence of Tommy Yu (Alvin Chiam), who founded Love and Unity Volunteers Establishment to care for these marginalised and needy elderly.
A large part of the film is centred around the relationship between Tommy and an elderly lady who lives alone, Aunty Feng (Quek Siew Lian). During their interactions, multiple issues are brought to the fore which bothers these solitary, elderly individuals on a significant level – the absence of emotional support, the lack of proper sustenance and alienation from the larger community.
Tommy does all he can to help Aunty Feng’s stay alone be as comfortable as possible, bringing substantial quantities of food and striking up conversation with the elderly lady in order to quell her fears. The relationship they share represents his view towards the necessity to help socially isolated and needy elderly, recognising their vulnerability and need for assistance – he gives all he has and more, evidenced by the numerous bank letters he receives for payment of loans which were taken out to help the elderly.
The film starts and ends with shots of Tommy’s residence inhabited by elderly folk who are all presumably the people who have benefitted from his benevolence and generosity. It is a powerful scene – the assistance rendered by Tommy and the organisation he founded has liberated them from the confines and restrictions of their existing situation, and they have found a home, with all its warmth and love, in Tommy.
Waiting Room issues an important reminder that there are disadvantaged and often forgotten communities in Singapore which require our care and attention – in this case, an elderly population which faces increasing neglect. Mr Tommy Yu has shown through word and deed what it means to truly care, and has thus set an example for many to emulate, not just for elderly folk who live alone but for people everywhere who require the warmth and love of an extended hand.
About 15 Shorts
15 Shorts is a collaboration between the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) and Blue3Asia. Fifteen film directors provide an alternative perspective to the nation-building narratives of the era; their films tell true stories of Singaporeans who performed powerful acts of selflessness between the 1970s and 1990s. These are slice-of-life stories that reveal how this human, giving side has always been a part of us.
In the spirit of giving, each director will dedicate his or her film to a charity in Singapore. Working with NVPC, the directors have curated a list of charities that cover a spectrum of needs, including support for the elderly, people with autism, and migrant workers.
About The Director’s Chosen Organisation
Founded by Tommy Yu, Love and Unity Volunteers Establishment is an organisation that helps socially isolated and needy elderly. Its volunteers visit old folks, organise activities and outings for them, and also offers pro-bono funeral services upon request. If you wish to contribute to help Love and Unity Volunteers Establishment continue its good work, you may visit this site.