FILM REVIEW: Ah Beng In Wonderland

10 June 2019


FILM REVIEW: Ah Beng In Wonderland

An experimental comedy about a Singaporean low-life (Ah Beng) who runs away to Malaysia on an e-scooter when he’s faced with the reality that his girlfriend is pregnant.

Director: Carla Castillo
Year: 2019
Language: English, Chinese, Malay
Country: Singapore, Malaysia
Runtime: 13 min

“This is a story that is ordinary. A story of the everyday man.” This is how a snarky narrator introduces us to the story of Lin Chua – your stereotypical Ah Beng who isn’t very bright, has a humble job and of course rides his e-scooter around while blasting techno music. Even the narrator refers to Lin Chua as an idiot and it is this kind of humour that makes the short film enjoyable.

Interestingly, the narrator does not only tell the story of Chua’s everyday life, but he also controls how the story goes. In an accent more refined than Chua’s own Singlish-saturated one, the way he controls Chua’s actions from waking up in the morning to making his decisions for him becomes comical. The satire takes away the weight of the conflicts that are presented in the film which comes out in other ways like up-close shots of Chua’s facial expressions to show his inner struggles.

There is no jaw-dropping plot twist. In fact, the whole plot is rather simple but this is one of those rare films where this proves to be a strength rather than a weakness. The film is so uniquely shot with an attention to the finer photographic details. Objects that seem old-fashioned – that white and green wall calendar, the very first iPhone, the kopitiam chairs – pairs beautifully with the warm hues to exude a nostalgic vibe. Not only do they bring us back to simpler times but also encapsulate the simplicity of Lin Hua’s life and this becomes significant at the end.  

Despite being simple, the film concludes in a way you would not have predicted from the beginning. The Wonderlandesque tone it began with is subdued as we go down the rabbit hole that is the plot twist. More importantly, it leaves us with a question to consider – whether the narrator had been right all along or if the inherently negative ‘Ah Beng’ label is unjustifiable. Short but sweet, this short film is a unique take on an otherwise ordinary story.

You can watch Ah Beng in Wonderland on Viddsee here.

An optimistic pessimist. A cynical believer. And a careful dreamer. Basically the moron in oxymoron but sometimes I say things just for pun.