ReviewWriter: Florey DMWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
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If you can pick only one movie to watch that deals with the subject of autism, "Guang" is the one.
If you're unfamiliar with the award-winning short film it is based on, it's easy to dismiss it as yet another drama film that will attempt to explain autism to the masses. Well, time to enlighten yourself with a dramatic, yes, but also funny and heart-warming tale of a young man just trying to live his life the way he knows how.
We are introduced to Wen Guang (Kyo Chen's Best Actor accolades are well-deserved) as he rehearses his job interview lines with his younger brother (Ernest Chong manages to stand toe-to-toe with Kyo in terms of acting ability), who throughout the movie is only identified as Di Di, which means younger brother in Mandarin - the vernacular language of the Johor-born brothers.
Wen Guang struggles to find a job, as persuaded by his brother so that he can chip in with the finances now that the two young men are living on their own in the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur.
It's an emotional roller coaster watching the two brothers. You feel the older's pain as he strives to lead a normal life and hold down a job even with his difficulties of fitting into social norms but at the same time, you also feel the younger's frustration of having to be the older brother and making sure that his brother is taken care of and stays out of trouble.
Understandably, Di Di does have the occasional emotional outbursts, it is physically and mentally taxing to care for a brother that is "different". He is lucky to have a close friend who helps him and doubles as his voice of reason, constantly reminding him that if he thinks life is not easy for someone relatively normal like him, it is even harder for his brother whose disorder hinders him from behaving and seeing the world the way others would usually do.
Di Di becomes so absorbed in trying to protect Wen Guang and managing his brother's quirks that he forgets to view Wen Guang as his own person. Only when he finds out that Wen Guang has secretly been hoarding glasses and glass bowls, for whatever reason he can't comprehend or even begin to fathom, that he realises he has been neglecting his older brother, even as he thought he has selfishly invested his whole life in taking care of him.
When he does find out the reason, well, get that box of tissue ready.
Through Wen Guang, we get to somewhat experience just how it is to be in the shoes of someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the prejudice and injustice they face. Since it is written by a man who grew up with an autistic brother (director Quek Shio Chuan based Wen Guang's character on his older brother Quek Shio Gai), the tale is pretty much rooted in reality as he takes inspirations from their life growing up together, giving the movie a very genuine and unpretentious quality that offers a realistic glimpse into the world of people with autism and those who live with them.
When the movie is not busy moving you to tears, it takes time to educate you that it's okay to lighten up around people with autism. Wen Guang's different way of perceiving words and actions will cause misunderstandings which more often than not, in real life, will cause anyone witnessing the moment to let out a chuckle or two. You are not laughing at him but with him, the innocence of his ways will touch your heart and you can't help but feel a certain affection towards him.
You'll see this in the way Wen Guang totally misses the point of his brother's speeches and chuckles at the word he's zeroed in on and finds funny, you'll start giggling along with him too.
Rarely do we see such a brilliant adaptation of a short film into a feature film. Though there are extra characters added in, the main leads are developed more, and backstories introduced in the full-length version, the film doesn't get bogged down and manages to maintain the warmth and ingenuity that the original short had. Trivia:
• This is the feature film version of director Quek's short film of the same name which won the BMW Shorties 2011 Grand Prize.
• The director said that the short film took only a month to make while this movie took four years to complete, he even suffered a moment of depression when he got stuck editing the movie.
• Angela, the octopus dolls and the calligraphy on the door are all very real aspects pulled from Quek's own brother's life.Cinema Online, 22 November 2018