Sharp and Poignant, ANOTHER DAY WITH TIM is a Visceral Portrait of Mental Illness
Another morning; the rush to school, to work. Another day with friends and loved ones. Another day of pleasing people, meeting expectations. Tim is a son, a student, a friend, a boyfriend. Another Day With Tim is about a youngster. And about how his mother, his teacher, his friend, his girlfriend, think they know him.
Director: Kenny Gee and Ernest Yang
Cast: Benjamin Ang, Karen Bee, Lucas Lim, Cheryl Lee, Raja Mohan, Lynnie Cheong, Sean Lua, Teng Qin Da
Runtime: 45 minutes
Another Day With Tim is a sombre depiction of the frustrating invisibility of mental illness, told through the eyes of both a teenager and the various characters in one ordinary day of his life. While it is mainly targeted towards male youths, the film makes it immediately clear that mental illness can affect anyone.
From the outside, Timothy (Benjamin Ang) seems to have a good life. He is well-liked amongst his peers. He tops his class while being a part of the school’s student council. He has a loving girlfriend. By all accounts – especially by society’s standards – it is unlikely for anyone to suspect that he might be suffering from mental anguish.
The film makes this point through the telling of Tim’s day through the eyes of his mother, a classmate, and his girlfriend. All of them hold varying perspectives of Tim based on their expectations of him. His mother, Elaine (Karen Bee), for example, suspects that something might be amiss with her son. Yet the urgency of everyday life and of Tim’s looming ‘A’ Level examinations quickly take precedence, not even entertaining the thought that her son might be torn up over his parents’ divorce.
Their perspective is sharply contrasted with Tim’s, letting the audience in on the inconspicuous signs and irrational behaviour that depression can bring. Even in agony, Tim still makes a point to mask his emotions, all while internalising his pain.
Tim starts the day hoping to make friends, to talk to his father, and to have a heartfelt conversation with his girlfriend. It is through this perspective where the audience shares in Tim’s private moments, fueling the film’s ending as an emotional gut punch.
One particularly heart-rending scene is when Tim’s teacher, Mr Mohan (Raja Mohan), reaches out a helping hand to Tim. The irony of his teacher and not those closest to him being the only one able to recognise the possible roots of his issues is bitterly present. Yet, when finally presented with an outlet for his suffering, it immediately riles up Tim, leading to an outburst that is uncharacteristic of the monotonic teenager.
I felt that this sequence was a simple and effective way to show the complexities that surround individuals suffering from depression, in that it is never as straight-forward as seeking help. In his emotional turbulence, words often fail to translate his pain. Meanwhile, those that do want to help – including the audience – are stuck in an equally frustrating position. The film’s use of differing perspective is a simple method to bring this message across, and this sequence in particular brought it front and centre.
Ang does a superb job in his portrayal of Tim, showing just enough flickers of emotions without presenting his character as a victim. His performance is supported by the rest of the all-around solid cast, each offering a convincing presentation of how and why they might not be able to notice Tim’s issues.
However, I did feel that the camera work was a double-edged sword at best. On one hand, its wide use of shaky cam does lend a voyeuristic quality to the film while fully complementing the intensity of the film’s tone. But when the technique is almost exclusive throughout without any variations, it started to get somewhat disorientating and distracting.
Similarly, I think another fault of Another Day With Tim was how it approached social media. The film features probably the most bizarre response that any youth would have of a classmate posting a deluge of overbearing comments on one of his Instagram posts.
These flaws, however, end up as nitpicks in an overall excellent film. Another Day With Tim succeeds in its representation of mental illness thanks to its strong cast and its deceivingly simple premise. By its end, to realise that this was just another day for Tim was a gut punch of emotions, further compounded by the chilling realisation that the film was based on a true story.
Watch the film here: