FILM REVIEW: One Hour To Daylight3 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
Social and cultural tensions threaten to divide the inhabitants of a Singaporean estate. A lift technician, Chen, dies in an unfortunate work site accident and his wife travels here from China to collect his body. Overseeing this case is ambitious Malay lawyer, Andy, who disregards his wife’s objections to giving their daughter Dela a Dream Device to better her studies. Dela’s classmate, Alyssa, has to live with both her grandparents in the absence of her mother, and she knocks heads with them constantly due to their class differences. She seeks comfort in her best friend, Wei Ting, whose unemployed father decides to rob a bank with Chen’s Bangladeshi co-worker, Nayeem. Their lives are separate but intertwined, and all collide in the Curry Incident.
DIRECTORS: Jonathan Choo, Sufyan Sam’an, Jacky Lee & D. Vel Murugan
CAST: Larry Low, Joann Wu, Hatta Said, Aadhya Anand, Elias Mikhail, Christopher Yong, A. Panneeirchelvam
LANGUAGE: English, Mandarin, Malay & Tamil with English & Chinese subtitles
RUNTIME: 77 min
Review by Jean Wong
Locally-produced film One Hour to Daylight weaves four different pieces of Singapore literature into one. Centred around the death of a lift technician in one of Singapore’s many high-rise construction projects, the film explores the lives of four different families amidst the chaos. Each part of the story was shot by different directors, their works blending together on the screen. This stylistic choice suits the film perfectly, which wanted to adapt the idea of individual actions having consequences on the wider community, like ripples making waves.
The film opens with a scene between two neighbours having a disagreement over curry, calling into mind the infamous real-life curry dispute of 2011. With this allusion, the opening immediately seeks to capture the attention of locals who were either involved in the protest of the dispute verdict, banding together to organise a ‘Cook A Pot of Curry Day’, or at least knew about the controversy. Such high social awareness set the bar for the rest of the movie, fuelling desire and anticipation to see what would come next. Indeed, the curry dispute was the inspiration behind this film.
Following up on the curry scene, the film’s main characters are gradually revealed to us, as well as their plotlines. Such stories intersect with each other in unexpected ways on the screen, bringing about an interesting perspective of the lives of the individuals. These stories touch on a breadth of social issues, from the ethics of implanting microchips, to explorations of class inequality and racial stereotypes.
Besides touching on current social topics that are very much applicable to our lives, the film also incorporates well-thought-out scenes and emotional shots. In one scene, the Bangladeshi migrant worker Nayeem (Elias Mikhail) finds out about the horrific consequences of his actions at the same time that the audience does. The weight of these two revelations, both for the viewer and for Nayeem, adds to the emotional gravity of the scene. In an interesting decision, portions of this segment are also animated, somehow adding both comedic relief and sombreness to the reality of the situation.
The cinematography throughout the film is executed quite effectively as we are slowly led through the four individual stories, watching it culminate into one. The editing also shines through in the climax. One set of characters confront each other in an HDB hallway above while another set argues in the void deck below; the back and forth of the two concurrent arguments heightens the tension of the scene, as each party is unaware of the other yet this is made agonisingly vivid for the viewer.
Overall, this was a film with intricate subplots that I thoroughly enjoyed watching, following each character closely and the motivations of their actions. Since this film was inspired by the chaos theory, using four different stories and showing how they eventually interconnect in the finale really portrayed this concept seamlessly. In the end, One Hour To Daylight is more than the sum of its parts.