Ilo Ilo

This article is about the Singaporean film. It is not to be confused with the Philippine province, Iloilo or its capital, Iloilo City.
Ilo Ilo

Film poster
Directed by Anthony Chen
Produced by Ang Hwee Sim
Anthony Chen
Wahyuni A. Hadi
Written by Anthony Chen
Starring Chen Tianwen
Yeo Yann Yann
Angeli Bayani
Koh Jia Ler
Cinematography Benoit Soler
Edited by Hoping Chen
Joanne Cheong
Singapore Film Commission
Ngee Ann Polytechnic
Fisheye Pictures
Distributed by Golden Village Pictures
Release dates
  • May 19, 2013 (2013-05-19) (Cannes)
  • August 29, 2013 (2013-08-29) (Singapore)
Running time
99 minutes
Country Singapore
Language Chinese, English, Tagalog
Budget S$700,000[1][2]
Box office Singapore (S$1.2 million)

Ilo Ilo (Chinese: 爸媽不在家) is a 2013 Singaporean family film. The debut feature of director Anthony Chen, the film features an international cast, including Singaporean actor Chen Tianwen, Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann, Filipino actress Angeli Bayani, and debut child actor Koh Jia Ler.[3]

Ilo Ilo was first premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival as part of the Directors' Fortnight on 19 May 2013.[4] At the festival, the film was awarded the Caméra d'Or award, thus becoming the first Singaporean feature film to win an award at the Cannes Film Festival.[5] The film was selected as the Singaporean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards,[6] but was not nominated.


Set in Singapore during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Ilo Ilo chronicles the Lim family as they adjust to their newly arrived Filipina domestic helper, Teresa, (Angeli Bayani) who has come, like many other Filipinas, in search of a better life. The film’s Chinese title translates as "Mom and Dad Are Not Home".[7] The father, Teck, (Chen Tianwen) works in sales for a glass company; the pregnant mother, Hwee Leng, (Yeo Yann Yann) works as a secretary for a shipping company that is down sizing; and the ten-year-old son, Jiale, (Koh Jia Ler) is a troubled delinquent.

At first, Jia Le and Teresa (known as 'Terry') exhibit a troubled relationship, when during a trip to the bookstore Jia Le places some unpaid merchandise in the maid's shopping bag causing her to be accused of theft. After being scolded by Terry, tensions rise, causing Jia Le to climb over the school fence at dismissal just to avoid his maid. He runs home and locks her out.

When the father loses his sales job, he conceals it from his wife, secretly smoking on the steps outside their apartment. After some time, unable to find work in a career position, he accepts a temporary job as a security guard monitoring an egg farm. As he continues to lose money in the stock market, in a moment of depression, he acknowledges their losses to his wife who lambasts him over his failure. As the family finances begin to descend deeper, familial tensions grow as Jiale continues to act out against his family and Terry. Upon the death of a neighbour who jumps from the roof of their apartment building, Jiale and Terry begin to kindle a relationship.

While the mother is desperate to stay employed as she continues to script termination letters at her job, Terry and Jiale become fast friends sparking the mother's jealousy as their relationship develops. Desperate at home, and emotionally neglected by her son, Hwee Leng attends a motivational seminar where she is moved by the optimistic words of the speaker and immediately purchases his full catalogue of motivational books and CDs. During a lunch break at work, she attempts to call the speaker using a phone number included on the seminar's flyer, and discovers the line has been disconnected and rerouted. Later that night while watching television, she learns that the motivational speaker has been arrested for fraud causing Hwee Lang to break down in the presence of her confused husband as more money is lost.

Although Jiale is a poor student and is constantly in trouble, he shows high intellect and cunning in his obsessive calculation of past winning lottery numbers, which he catalogues in his schoolbook during class. One day, after being taunted by another boy that his maid only loves him because she is paid to, he pushes the boy into the bathroom wall causing him to split his head and bleed. Threatened with expulsion, and the school's administration unable to contact his parents, Terry arrives to plead for mercy on his behalf. After some resistance, the principal appears moved as Hwee Leng arrives angrily dispatching Terry and berating Jiale. As Hwee Leng and Jiale leave the administration office, Hwee Leng aggressively reminds Terry that she is Jiale's mother before snatching Jiale and walking away. Given a punishment of public caning rather than expulsion, Terry arrives to the school auditorium, powerless, as she watches Jiale being whipped in front of the student body.

After the family car is sold for scrap, the family acknowledges they can no longer afford to keep Terry employed as Jia Le's father has been recently fired from his job due to an accident tripping over eggs while attempting to find a suspected intruder. Desperate to keep Terry, Jia Le uses his savings to purchase lottery tickets but loses. He becomes tearfully despondent, cutting a lock of Terry's hair during a tense goodbye before she is sent home.

Holding on to his cassette player, Jiale listens to music with his father on a bench in the hospital as Hwee Leng gives birth to a baby girl.



Partially funded by Ngee Ann Polytechnic and the Singapore Film Commission, the film's budget is estimated to be around S$700,000.[1]


Ilo Ilo received a 100% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

Ilo Ilo received positive reviews at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was later awarded the Camera d'Or award, an award which recognizes the best debut feature film in the competition.[5] It received six nominations at the Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards.,[8] and won 4, namely Best Film, Best New Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Yeo Yann Yann.[9]




See also


  1. 1 2 Chan, Boon (May 30, 2013). "S'pore film-maker's Cannes win 'a unanimous decision'". AsiaOne.
  2. "Foreign interest in 'Ilo Ilo' picks up pace". Yahoo! Singapore. 4 December 2013. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  3. "S'pore film gets standing ovation at Cannes". The Straits Times. asiaone. 27 May 2013. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
  4. Dalton, Stephen (5 May 2013). "Ilo Ilo: Cannes Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
  5. 1 2 Loh, Genevieve (27 May 2013). "Ilo Ilo is first S'pore film to win at Cannes". Today. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
  6. "Ilo Ilo headed for the Oscars?". Channel News Asia. Retrieved 2013-12-21.
  8. "'Ilo Ilo' earns 6 nominations for the Golden Horse Awards". Yahoo! News. 1 October 2013.
  9. "'Ilo Ilo' earns 6 nominations for the Golden Horse Awards". Channel News Asia. 24 November 2013.

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Beijing Blues
Golden Horse Awards for Best Film
Succeeded by
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