A Day – Korean Movie Review


Watching movies for me now is not just for entertainment, but also research for my dramatic writing class – where’s the arc, are the characters likeable, what’s the central dramatic question to hook the audience? But last Friday evening, this wasn’t the case. The moment the movie started, I forgot all about my research and was immersed for the full ninety minutes.

If you’ve watched Groundhog Day, this movie kind of reminds you of it, with lots of thrills and minus the romance.

Dr Kim Joon-Young is sitting on an airplane returning to Seoul, having missed his daughter Eun Jung’s birthday but hoping to make it up as soon as the plane lands. He gives an autograph and a selfie to the stewardess.

On his way to the airport carpark, he saves a boy from choking, gives a surprised press conference and then drives off, only to be interrupted by a road accident, where he sees, to his horrors, his daughter dead in the middle of a traffic crossing. And then he wakes up, back on the plane, and wonders if he has just been dreaming. Yet, everything that happens gives me a sense of deja vu – the stewardess, the choking boy, the press conference… and he knows he will find his daughter dead. He rushes against time but arrives too late. And then he wakes up back on the plane.

And these nightmares return repeatedly, with Dr Kim trying to beat fate to save his daughter but always in vain. Then he meets an ambulance driver, Lee Min-Chul, whose wife is also killed in the same accident, and who is also reliving the same nightmare as him. Both of them then try to work against time to stop the accident, but always never succeeding, until on one occasion, when they think they have succeeded, for they have crossed the time zone of the accident, only to learn that the accident has been staged, and the killer, like them, is reliving that day, each time to with the purpose to kill Dr Kim’s daughter and Lee’s wife.

With the scenes having to be repeated so many times, the editing is crucial, and subtle ingredients are added in each time to expand the plot and hook the audience. At the end of the movie, we learn that the good men are never really good and a bad man is bad for a good reason, and we empathise with the murderer despite what he has done.

And that’s what makes a great script.



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Once Upon A Generation 兰蕙百年 – movie review

This is the Nanyang(NY) story, a creative non-fictional drama of my alma mater as she celebrates 100 years.

The docu-drama begins with a mother fetching her son from NY Primary School after school to attend her teacher’s birthday party at NYGHS just across Bukit Timah Road. There, she and her classmates reminise about the audition for the 1988 musical the school put up at Victoria Theatre. As I watched the movie at the lecture theatre in school yesterday, I was also flooded with memories of my own class preparation for the National Day dance competitions during all my four years at NY, which I had documented my final year in an anthology published by NLB.

Teacher Li, celebrating her 80th birthday in the movie, also recalled how in 1933, her mother, a chestnut seller, fought with her grandfather to send her daughter to school in order for her to have a brighter future. One dialogue line which particularly tugged my heartstrings is : 你记得第一次穿校服吗? (Do you remember the first time you put on your school uniform?)

My first time is NY uniform in 1972.

The movie recorded snippets of interviews from old and current students and teachers. Many female students went on to teach at NY, one of whom featured in the movie was my primary school teacher. The current principal is also an ex student.

The movie, directed by Eric Khoo, cost $300k to produced and involved mainly current students and alumni. There were many laugh out loud moments and dialogues, like the scene where the girls were retelling the rumour about the haunted toilet cubicle late at night.

The movie premiere yesterday, on the actual day of the centenary anniversary, was a day of reunion for myself and many alumni, as we returned to school and posed photos in the new campus, which to my greatest regret, that except for the majestic old school gate, nothing from my original school building was present to transport me back in time to my own school history. Even the era of the movie was seven years after I graduated.

This movie review is biased as this reviewer has a close connection to the subject. So if you’re a NY alumni, I hope you get an opportunity to watch it too, although I am not certain if it would be shown in main-stream cinema.

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Investing in people

I read this sentence in an article today, ‘I did not want to invest in people I did not expect to see again.’

The first time I came across the phrase ‘investing in a person’ was when an ex-ACSI principal tried to persuade me that the five-figure sum of money he was asking to have my son transferred to his school is an investment for my son’s future. He didn’t have to try very hard. I would do anything to invest in my children’s future, even giving up my job.

But I digress. The investment in the sentence is obviously not money but time and effort. This sentiment is often how I feel too, but to read it in print makes it all sound so cold-blooded, which I don’t think I am. Yet I think this is the reason I rarely partake in small talks, or worse, bother to remember names and faces when I am first introduced to someone – why bother when you probably won’t see her again. Which makes me wonder now, why I would think the person I am meeting that first time is someone I am not expected to see again, for I have been proven wrong many times. Yet, this somehow sticks in me.

There is a perfectly reasonable explanation. There are some people who, when I meet for the first time, I feel an instant rapport – an unexplained familiarity which makes me want to connect and nurture the relationship. And if I don’t experience these on first impressions, I lose interest and don’t put in any investment. Alas, these instant rapports are rare and few, and sadly, even these investments I put in might end in vain, as the relationship fizzles off because the other party might not share the same feeling and put in the same investment.

Investing in people is not just for new relationships but old ones as well. I have many group chats but those I cherish most are from my school groups, from primary school, sec two and sec four. Thankfully, most in the groups share the same feeling of putting an equal investment to tolerate the frivolous chats and photos that are shared almost daily, but there are the few who prefer to exit, preferring to invest elsewhere. Old relationships are easier to invest – we have shared history and experiences to tap on and fall back for that warm fuzzy feeling.

So if you should, by chance, remember our first meeting, you’d probably think me aloof and arrogant, which I admit is probably true. But now you know my excuse – I did not want to invest in people I did not expect to see again. And if we are, by chance, still in connection, you should be glad I’ve invested in you. 🙂

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Rain is the flimsy mist that spritzes my heated face

Rain is the drizzle that sprinkles dirt on my car surface

Rain is the annoying shower that dampens my dried laundry

Rain is the frightening storm that roars heartily

Rain is the rhythmic patter, music for a lazy afternoon delight

Rain is the soothing lullaby which lures me to sleep at night

Rain is part of the water cycle we learned in primary three

Rain is the evaporation and condensation of clouds and seas

Rain is the precious nourishment for our reservoirs

Rain is for water we bargain and purchase from afar

Rain is the resilience shown on the first National Day Parade

Rain is the part of essential Newater we now proudly make

Rain is the tears in heaven on the day we bid him farewell

Rain is the tears in his eyes for the scandal he could never foretell

Rain is the hope and prayer after a choking hazy month

Rain is the cruel obstacle to that anticipated BBQ picnic lunch

Rain is carefree childhood days when we waddled in flood

Rain is traffic accident where road splattered with blood

Rain is that sexy Korean hunk with that lust-after abdomen

Rain Man is Dusty Hoffman’s signature performance

Rain Song is by Led Zeppelin which only now I hear

Rain Scene by Liu Wen Zheng I often sang in my teenage years

Rain is the gift Tan Twan Eng presented in his novel

Rain is a favourite amongst poets, writers, and singers

Rain gently now sweeps outside my windows

Rain washing away my doubts and shadows

Rain tenderly leaps out as an image

Rain is this inspiration on my page

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Hammock Sonnet

On Tuesday, we were taught List Poetry and I really enjoyed listening to my classmates’ poems which I thought were rather impressive, considering we were given 15 minutes to impromptu write.

I didn’t really like mine and rewrote it into a sonnet with 14 lines, 10 syllabi and hopefully, it rhymes well.

Hammock Sonnet
Batik hammock for my sleeping baby
From a sarong for a Nonya lady
Canvass hammock in the ulu kampong
for tired farmers to snooze all night long
Double hammock under coconut trees
Canoodling lover by the roaring sea

Hammock for fitness is a rising trend
A prop for flexibility and strength
Slingy Silk hammock for aerial yoga
My attempt to be flying circus star
Twirling and twisting hammock in the air
Trying to flip and turn with graceful flair
In hammock I rest in savasana
Baby in sarong cradle, Nirvana


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I really enjoyed my poetry class on Tuesday and was impressed with the List Poems my classmate wrote on the spot.

As I spent the morning weeding my garden, I composed this. Tell me what you think.


In my neat carpet-grass turf, weeds
mar the homogeneity look I seek
little shoots with leaves of network veins
dot like measles spots with the frequent rain   
dandelions and pods with minature blooms
I can't wait to pull them up too soon
I hate the ringlets of stringy penny-worts
with the weak slingy stems that breaks
through to the roots I gently pull
there's no room in my turf for you
in my hunches for hours I squat
my knees creak and crack and squawk
I persist through this agonising plight
just to clear away these jarring sight

if only the weeds which sprout within me
can be pulled away as dexterously


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My Path

I attended Google’s Jolly Good Fellow Tan Chade Meng’s talk on ‘Why Buddhism For Me’ last week and walked away with the same reasons, well articulated by him.

Buddhism in my early years, like him, involved idol worship, prayers for 4D numbers, safe delivery, recovery of lost items and passing exams at the Waterloo Street Kuan Yin temple. My late sister-in-law sweared by its effectiveness of that temple and that somehow influenced me. The irony was that she died a Christian from cancer at age 37, which proved to me that one can never pray to the divine for anything. Buddhism also involved chanting which didn’t make sense to Meng, nor to me at then.

Chade Meng was looking to religion to relieve his misery, and Christianity was attractive, with its organized structure, social services and networking. However, he has three problems with it.

1. You can’t question the religion. And if you do have questions, you need to accept whatever answers given and not probe, for that calls into question your faith.

I can’t too accept that.

2. For not accepting Christ, you’re deemed a sinner and assigned to hell. He asked, what happens to all those tribes in some undiscovered remote areas who do not know about Christianity? Are they sinners by fault of ignorance?

I ask, what about the people before Christ was born? Before 1 BC ?

If I am sinned by such default, so be it as long as my conscience is clear. As Ajahn Brahm says, life on earth for some people, Christians or otherwise, can be hell too.

3) Chade Meng also questioned why an all loving, all powerful and all forgiving God allows so much suffering on earth. Good question.

To these problems, he found a solution in Buddhism, a way of life rather than a religion to him.

His discovery of Buddhism is unusual, as it wasn’t through learning of the Dharma, but through mindfulness, very much like me.

I was introduced to Ajahn Brahm in 2007 and what he said struck a chord – my first introduction to mindfulness:

When is the most important time? Now!

Who is the most important person? The person you are with now.

Mindfulness, through these three steps, was the way out of misery for him.

Samadhi – breathing in and out

Vippassana – breathing with awareness

Metta – loving kindness meditation

Each of these steps requires only 6 seconds each and could be repeated to extend the meditation.

Through these three steps, he became calmer, less of an ‘ass hole’ – for how could one be miserable when one is practicing loving kindness. He also became more creative. Through the success of his experience, he took these to the skeptical engineers in Google and was so successful he wrote the book Search Inside Yourself.

Here I am, trying hard to practise mindfulness and wavering through it. However, I am clear this too is the path for me.

Thanks, Chade Meng.

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