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FILM REVIEW: Cash Only

4 April 2019

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FILM REVIEW: Cash Only

During Labor Day, Jiamin is left alone to man an old cash-only-provision-shop. Her day soon takes an interesting turn when a strange customer shows up to make a simple purchase that quickly escalates the situation into an unexpected confrontation.

Director: Michael Tay
Year: 2018
Cast: Audrey Luo, Ahamed Ali Khan, Seah Teong Keng
Language: English, Hokkien, Tamil, Mandarin
Runtime: 15min


Review by Jean Wong

We are often told that the higher your education level is, the more money you make. Cash Only (2018) puts a new twist to this premise with our protagonist, Jiamin (Audrey Luo), while making a subtle commentary on elitism in Singapore.

Jiamin’s academic qualifications are the first thing we see in the film, with both her graduation photo and degree framed and on display in the provision shop. We get a sense of her pride as a university graduate as she saunters around in her alma mater’s shirt and tenderly wipes her framed university degree.

As night falls and the sky darkens, Jiamin notices a strange and unkempt customer lurking in the shop. The dark setting, along with the atmospheric sound design and unstable footage, all instills a sense of apprehension in the viewer. Though this tonal shift may seem out-of-place, it works well to imply Jiamin’s bias against people she perceives as “uneducated”.

Cash Only also works well by occasionally switching to first-person perspective. She rarely makes eye contact with her customers and converses with them in a bored tone. Seeing things from her point-of-view helps to put the audience in her shoes and feel her sense of panic as the whole episode unfolds.

Nevertheless, Jiamin’s character development is satisfying to follow. Her journey is a clever portrayal of how elitism often manifests in Singapore, and director Michael Tay manages to touch on such social issues while still creating an entertaining film.

At surface level, Cash Only is a quirky and magnetic story that touches on the current state of elitism in Singapore while providing laughs for those watching. The social commentary behind the film truly shines through and allows me to appreciate the film beyond what’s on the screen.

Watch Cash Only (2018) here.

Contemplative empath who sees wonder in the curious world. Has a habit of hiding behind books and occasionally dabbles in games, Netflix and YouTube. Is permanently attached to bubble tea.
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