Director: Eric Khoo
Once credited with reviving the Singapore film industry nearly a decade ago (according to Film Movement), Eric Khoo released his first film in seven years with the dazzlingly hypnotic, tender and sensual Be With Me. Inspired by the moving autobiography of an elderly blind and deaf woman named Theresa Chan, Khoo relates not only her story but weaves two other fictitious love stories into the work about the human need for connection. Titling the first story regarding Chan, “Meant to Be,” we learn of Chan’s remarkable strength, faith and will-power in overcoming her disability and her words will definitely break your heart. In fact, in a now oft-quoted comment, New York Times critic Manohla Dargis shared that she had burst into tears by the end of the film after it played in the Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival. The second story, reminiscent in tone and style to Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express tells the story of an overweight shy security guard who falls in love at a distance with a beautiful career woman and proceeds to harmlessly but voyeuristically view her from afar. The second tale revolves around teenage puppy love between two girls who frantically communicate via text message and the Internet until one of the girls abruptly decides to break the bond without providing a valid reason, except ones we can try and (like the girl) deduce visually. The film itself has very little in the way of dialogue, instead relying on hypnotic cuts that seem to last less than a minute each at the most, thereby affecting each of our senses. The film’s words mostly consist of subtitled autobiography accounts of Chan (our narrator, so to speak), and electronic transmissions, perhaps illustrating to viewers that human intimacy has been replaced by technology, making it all the more difficult to connect as we watch the two fictitious tales end in heartbreak. A hauntingly beautiful piece of cinema now made available courtesy of Film Movement and several film festivals across the globe. Be With Me qualifies as a sort of cinematically emotional litmus test in that if you’re not affected by it, you may need to check for a pulse.