FILM REVIEW: Arnie 阿尼
While docked at the port of Kaohsiung, Filipino seaman Arnie buys a ring with the help of his mates. He plans to propose to his girlfriend back home over the Internet. What was meant to be the happiest moment of his life soon takes a downward spiral when he finds out that she is pregnant. Like a fish out of water, the life of migrant seamen working in Taiwan is a daily struggle… for the catch is plenty down south, but the waves are choppy and brutal. Monsoon season is here.
Director: Rina Tsou
Cast: Whakin C. Maniego, Yu-Hsuan Chen, Mei-Man Jin
Language: Tagalog, Mandarin, Taiwanese Hokkien, English
Review by Jean Wong
Being far away from home is hard. Being distant from your loved ones is even harder. Through the story of one migrant seaman, Arnie (2016) skillfully portrays the life of these seaworkers that calls to mind the life of foreign workers here in Singapore. As a migrant seaman working in Taiwan, Arnie (Whakin C. Maniego) is far from home — but that does not stop him from dreaming of returning to his life back in the Philippines.
The struggles that Arnie faces in an unfamiliar country is presented clearly through the language barrier, the tough working conditions, and the meagre pay. The director, Rina Tsou, makes sure Arnie’s every expression is captured in detail with closeups at appropriate moments. From Arnie’s longing for home — as he talks about his house and his girlfriend — to his nerves at proposing, to his heartache, nothing is missed.
And Maniego does a good job at expressing his character’s every mood. As we watch the rise and fall of Arnie’s emotions, it’s easy for us to empathise with him. With such a heavy focus on Arnie as the protagonist, everyone around him seems to fade away — until someone else manages to break through Arnie’s wall.
This individual is surprisingly none other than his agency representative. Despite the language barrier, a mutual understanding forms between the two perhaps in their shared misery. When juxtaposed with Arnie’s collapsing relationship with his girlfriend, the film seems to hint that differences do not necessarily keep two individuals apart, just as similarities do not necessarily draw two people together.
What makes Arnie noteworthy is the deliberate attempt to keep the ending ambiguous. Arnie’s constant yearning to keep in touch with his life back home can be taken as a reflection of the foreign workers’ situation here in Singapore. Indeed, Arnie is an evocative short film that portrays human connection in a stirring manner.