Ilo Ilo Review

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Two overworked parents hire a young immigrant nanny to look after their wayward 10-year-old son, only to be put out when the stranger's relationship with the boy grows closer than their own.


Anthony Chen's intimate, incisive domestic drama beat loftier contenders to Best Debut Film honours at the Cannes and London festivals, and it’s easy to see why. Set against the background of the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s, this story of a middle-class Singaporean family at once aided and divided by the arrival of a young Filipino nanny achieves a tricky balance: its child’s-eye view of everyday adult crises is gentle and generous in spirit, but never sentimental. Chen has calm observational skills and a wry sense of humour that recalls the late master Edward Yang; this is a humble yet formidable debut.

Not all magically benevolent nannies fly on talking umbrellas, as we learn in this beautifully formed little heart-tugger.