Ilo Ilo (2013)

Ilo Ilo, as it turns out, means “Father, Mother, not at home”. Initially, I was taking time to think what language it was from and the only “Iloilo” i could find was the name of a city in Philippines, haha!This film, mainly tells about the lives of a middle class Singaporean family during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. A common sight in East Asian home, maids are in charge of taking care of children. Coming from Jakarta, Indonesia I can attest to this. Every friend and family I know has at least one maid.. Well actually each child has his/her own maid (haha), and some families will hire extra maids to be in charge of cleaning. Each of them has their own specialty/ task to do. Sometimes it is nice because these helpers come from different cities/ villages, so they can cook a certain dish really well. 🙂

As director Anthony Chen puts it, the employer/ maid relationship is “quite brutal. You invite a stranger into your home and have them form a relationship with your children over a number of years. Then when you decide you don’t need help any more, you send them home, and that sense of family is very brutally erased.” Simply put, it is like erasing your child’s memories, taking away the person that cared for them (even though it was their job).

Boy was Hwee Leng (the mother) scary. Given, she’s pregnant and hormones do all sorts of stuff to your body.. 😀 In the opening scene, as Jiale ate his lunch alone while playing with his Tamagotchi, his mother yelled at him for playing while eat. I screamed too HAHA because I was so shocked! (Ok, I did not scream but I did gasp/ mini scream)

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“Discipline.. is an integral part of our education …. ” This scene where Jiale was do be caned, the principal was saying a short speech but I felt the use of language was a little too difficult for ten-year olds to understand.

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There were several elements of humour in the film, such as when the family was at the cemetery to pay their respects… What made me chuckle to myself was how Terry, being of a Catholic faith, was asked by her Buddhist(?) employers to pray with the joss sticks. All she had to do was follow the actions. After Terry copied Hwee Leng’s actions, she saw Jiale putting his hands together and moving them back and forth so she copied that too . 😀

What I enjoyed about the film was how relatable it was, the Singaporean culture and Jiale as a very cheeky child was entertaining to watch.

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In the beginning of the semester we were tasked to watch The Maid (2005). In the ending of both movies, both (three if you count the ghost maid in The Maid) maids are seen leaving Singapore, from the airport.

Something to note: Aren’t you glad in The Maid, the (ghostly) employers did not hold back Rosa when she was going back, unlike Jiale… ? :p




2 thoughts on “Ilo Ilo (2013)

  1. Hey Nasya! I enjoyed reading your analysis of Ilo Ilo as it was thoroughly engaging. The use of the videos and pictures gave me a clearer idea of your thought processes too.

    I have to say that I agree with Anthony Chen’s statement regarding how disposable maids were like in the society that we live in. It saddens me to know that the child in the family have to experience such losses at a very young age. Given the lack of experience in handling such losses, I think it must have been traumatic for Jiale to experience losing both his grandad and as well as Terry all in a short span of time. It also makes me wonder how he will be able to deal with the loneliness after Terry leaves and when his mother gives birth, thus leaving him with lesser attention since his parents will be more focused on taking care of their newborn child. Nonetheless, your analysis was spectacular!


  2. I like how you made used of Anthony Chen’s statement to make a claim on how brutal it is to do that to a child. I’ve been there where I cried for days when my first maid was being sent back to Indonesia. I totally agree that it was considered brutal that your memories was completely forced to be wiped out. I guess it was a sad ending for Jiale where he have to face the truth of Terry leaving, especially after they have forged a strong relationship with each other.

    I hope parents will be more mindful over this matter and pay more attention to their children and not just trying them to the care of their domestic helper. I guess this is what Anthony wanted to portray in this film as well. Kudos!


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