FILM REVIEW: PSLE-GO3 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
Zihui and Justin are sitting for their year-end PSLE examinations, which will determine whether they get into the top schools or not. It is a stressful time and Zihui is having serious trouble coping. Despite her parents’ support, her fear of disappointing them is overwhelming. Justin knows that Zihui is not herself but can he convince the adults that his friend is crumbling before it is too late?
Director: Stanley Yap
Cast: Henry Teo, Suzanne Ting, Teo Man Ning
Language: English, Mandarin
Runtime: 27 Mins
Review by Leon Lau
Youth suicides reached a six year high in 2015. That sobering statistic is what opens PSLE-GO (2016), a film that aims to spark conversations about depression and suicide among youths during exam stress.
The characters in PSLE-GO will be immediately recognisable to Singaporeans. You have the over-competitive parents, the kids who just want to get by, and the kids who want nothing more than to live up to their parents’ impossible expectations.
Growing up in Singapore, most of us will remember how much of a do-or-die situation PSLE felt like. This was the test that would supposedly define our future. It would decide the secondary school we would go to, which would affect our chances for college and eventually our job opportunities. So much was riding on this one test and at the tender age of 12, it can be overwhelming.
PSLE-GO hones in on what it feels like to be overwhelmed at a young age, and delves deep into the anxiety and fear of disappointing your parents with bad grades. We follow the life of Zihui in the days leading up to PSLE as she struggles to cope with the pressure from her exams.
Director Stanley Yap puts her anxiety at the front and center of the film, showcasing it effectively by physically isolating Zihui throughout the film. From the opening shot where she is floating alone in a pool to shots of her contemplating life at a balcony, her distance from people is apparent from the start thanks to smart visual storytelling.
We understand Zihui’s mental state by observing how she refuses to take a break from studying. Her parents mean well but are completely oblivious to her growing depression, which creates an interesting dilemma in the film. Instead of creating generic antagonists by making them one dimensional villains, they are written as caring and loving parents who just want the best for their child.
It’s a subtle and effective way to show how parents can unintentionally create pressure on their kids because of unrealistic expectations. Less effective are the film’s constant attempts at humor. There is a recurring gag involving ‘Pokemon-Go’ that feels out of place and undermines some of the dramatic moments.
Urgent and compelling, the film ultimately feels like an important wake up call. By showing us both the cause and effect of exam stress PSLE-GO is an emotional watch, especially for parents who might not realise the amount of stress their kids are facing.