My movie partner, Bee, is back home for a visit from Bangkok and we grabbed the opportunity to catch a movie, which both of us have missed doing since she moved to Bangkok three years ago while I started work and then my MA.
I suggested Raman Teh, since I received good recommendations from my friends Florence and classmate Olivier. (Read Florence’s review here: https://loveinanotherlanguage.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/ramen-teh/) Plus I just met the scriptwriter Wong Kim Hoe recently and felt I should support him.
Other than the famous local actors, I also spotted Kevin Mathew’s name in the music credit. He was my neighbour when I was a child. (Yup, some name-dropping here!)
The beginning cinematography is stunning, with shots of padi fields in Takasaki. (I have a soft spot for padi-fields, whether it’s in Ubud, Kedah or Japan. They just bring a sense of leisure and peace to me.) We meet Masato, a Singaporean-Japanese chef working in his father’s popular ramen shop. The close-up shots of oozy-yolked hard-boiled egg and chopped leek garnishing the ramen had me drooling. Masato discovers his Singaporean mother’s (Jeanette Aw) notebook upon his father’s death and decides to come to Singapore. Here, he meets his Uncle (Mark Lee) who tells him that his mother was estranged from her mother because of her marriage to a Japanese. Mark Lee’s appearance really livens up what is a slow-moving and a rather predictable plot.While in Singapore, he is hosted by a Japanese, Miki, and we get many Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (STPB) approved clips of touristy scenic places like Waterloo Temple and the Ford Museum, as well as an introduction to chicken rice, pratas and chili-crabs.
Masato’s grandmother refuses to acknowledge him and he tries to woo her by cooking her a special bak-kut-teh inspired ramen, which touches her. She in turn starts teaching him the various recipes found in his mother’s notebook. The dinner scene moved me to tears. At the end, he starts a successful ramen store in Singapore.
The juxtaposition of local and Japanese actors can’t be more glaring, with the Japanese’s restrained polite manners and their nicely groomed hair (Takumi Saito’s hair can miraculously look tousled yet moused and groomed) and mascaras, and the informal Singaporeans in their dress-down looks and easy-going attitude. The only exception is Jeanette Aw, who tries to bridge both cultures rather awkwardly.
Anyway, support Singapore art. Go watch!