FILM REVIEW: Guilty
Don is a 15-year-old delinquent who is beyond parental control. Almost everyone has given up on Don, including Don himself. Inspector Chia is a police officer who deals with secret societies and juvenile delinquents. Will he see the good in Don? Or is his compassion misplaced?
The film is inspired by the true story of inspector Chia Hwa Tong who, apart from his police work, was known by members of the public for going beyond the call of duty and for his remarkable service to youth.
Director: Sun Ji
Cast: Jeffrey Ong, Aden Tan, Guan Jin Sen
Language: Mandarin, Hokkien
Review by Jean Wong
With amazing acting and compelling characters, Guilty (2019) accurately captures the prospect that delinquents might face once they are branded as one. The film uses alternating narratives to construct stories of Don’s (Aden Tan) misdemeanours. Although it may first seem that Don is the protagonist, the moral of the story actually derives from the interactions between his inspection officer, Chia (Jeffrey Ong), and Chia’s boss Sir Eng (Guan Jin Sen).
Sir Eng not only represents the inflexible law system, but also seems to represent society at large, who treat ex-offenders unfavourably. On the opposite side of the scale, Chia stands for what — or more accurately, who — he believes in. His unwavering faith in delinquents like Don makes for a heartwarming story, especially considering his past attempts at helping them having backfired on him.
Both Tan and Ong’s acting skills shine marvellously in Guilty. Scenes where they had to emulate heated arguments showed how well they managed to immerse themselves in their roles. As the supporting character, even Guan’s acting was brilliant and the characters complemented each other well in the film. As the story starts and ends in the courtroom, director Sun Ji shifts from the past to the present and back again to keep us guessing on Don’s sentence. He also uses this tactic to transition from Don’s story to Chia’s effortlessly.
In the end, Guilty brings across a strong message about ex-offenders who are often left behind by society and posits that they too, deserve a second chance. We all make mistakes and the same can be said for these delinquents, who are humans just like us and therefore should be treated equally.
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
Boys’ Town is a charity which provides residential care, street outreach, fostering, community- and school-based programmes for families, children and youth-in-need. It helps children who come from disadvantaged families and those who may have faced hardship due to various reasons such as financial struggles, family issues, emotional trauma and abuse. Click here to help by donating or click here to help in other ways including volunteering.