An impoverished family attempts to cope with tragedy and mental illness in a very divided society, in Malaysian director Tan Seng Kiat’s feature debut.
A welcome new entry in the stale panorama of Malaysian contemporary cinema, Shuttle Life is the daring yet deeply touching debut feature by short-film director Tan Seng Kiat.
A hard-hitting social drama, this is a powerful portrait of an impoverished family trying to cope with tragedy and mental illness in a very divided society, where bureaucracy, corruption, and indifference reign supreme. The film features an impressive cast of both established stars and promising newcomers, including the wonderful Angel Chan (who delivers a heartrending performance in the role of the protagonist's little sister), the always-great Sylvia Chang, and pop singer Jack Tan.
There isn't much Qiang (Jack Tan) can do to make life better for his mentally unstable mother (Sylvia Chang) and five-year-old sister Hui Shan. He can steal spare parts and sell them at the repair shop. He can roam the big city on his motorcycle, in search of water to bring back home to fuel his mother's obsessive need to wash clothes. He loves his family, dysfunctional as it is, and has a special bond with his little sister, but a sense of impending danger — vividly conveyed by Tan's assured mise en scène — is Qiang's daily companion, as if tragedy could strike any minute. And on the night of his sister's sixth birthday, it does.
Solid filmmaking and the realistic, gritty cinematography of Chen Ko Chin, paired with extraordinary performances, make Shuttle Life a must-see from a rising talent.