Hainan Meets Teochew: review

When a bra falls on Ms. Teochew, she immediately wins the lottery. Meanwhile, Hainan-boy, whom the bra belongs to begins an earnest search for her lost bra. Her trails leads her to the home of Ms. Teochew, where a struggle leads to Ms. Teochew being booted out of her rented home. Feeling guilty, Hainan-boy invites Ms. Teochew to move in with her. Will this be the start of a beautiful romance?

Taken from here.

This film is written and directed by Singaporean filmmaker, Han Yew Kwang and produced by 18g Pictures.

We managed to catch this film earlier this year and here’s a review by Ryandall Lim.


When Hainan meets Teochew

I don’t like gay-themed films.

Porn aside (which I categorise as artistic performance and hence not a dramatisation or film), I find most gay films either too preachy or self-absorbed in its gaiety. So what if you’re a homosexual today? It’s 2011. So unless you’re one of the self-righteous who still balk at the sight of a half-naked torso, the I-am-gay-so-hear-me roar war cry is too much of a passé already.

But Han Yew Kwang’s film about the unlikely relationship between two queer characters – in all sense of the word – left me feeling good. Simply put, I liked it because there was no preaching, no-in-your-face cheap sexual innuendoes or naked bodies, and best of all, unpretentious.

The film follows the relationship between a sissy man Teochew, (Tan Hong Chye) and a butchy woman, Hainan (Lee Chau Min), who live in the same block of flats but meet under the weirdest of circumstances – through a brassiere. At loggerheads initially, Teochew eventually moves in with Hainan when the former gets thrown out by his landlord – an Indian man who has a warped obsession with a doll. As they live and learn about each other, they begin to develop mutual feelings. In comes Hainan’s high-strung ex-girl friend Meihui who adds not only complications but a whole new dimension to Teochew and Hainan’s confused relationship. As a threat, Meihui (the hysterical Yeo Yann Yann) not only adds life to the movie with her sudden outbursts – is she on drugs? – but forces Teochew to confront himself and fight for Hainan’s affection. Together with Alaric Tay, who appears as Teochew’s dead brother, one might think that this motley crew is a perfect concoction for mindless Channel-5 slapstick laughter. But this is where all the silliness ends.

Mid-way through the movie, it didn’t feel like a gay-themed movie at all: the two leads were basically just involved in a relationship, and at the end of the day, it was their happiness that mattered. As Teochew put it – all he wanted was a companion – somebody to be there to care for him. With this earnest cry to be loved – which I think is a typical cry which resonates in all of us – gay or straight – I found myself rooting for their relationship to work.

Another thought that struck me was how endearing both characters turned out to be. At the start, Teochew seems to be your typical bitchy “auntie” stylist while Teochew is your scary man-woman. But the film beautifully developed their characters, revealing their vulnerability, such that you saw past their stereotypical moulds and connected with their personalities instead. All too often, we form stereotypes of people of different races, or sexual orientation – gay straight or transgender – and this film indirectly addresses the easy trap of us unfairly labelling people without first getting to know them personally.

When Hainan meets Teochew is an atypical gay-themed film – the characters are queer but the message isn’t. It is a beautifully-made comedy with the right mix of laughter and tugs at the heartstrings. Coupled with praiseworthy acting from the entire cast, a funny script, nuances of gay camp (the imagined scenes of 1950s Hainan and Teochew), and celebration of gay pride (yes, there it is, finally – Meihui flailing the rainbow flag), When Hainan Meets Teochew is one local gay-themed film that I will dare recommend, even to the self-righteous.



And signing off with a  trailer

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