This time, the main victim of the emotional neglect is the distracted teacher Ling (Yeo). Trying to have a child through IVF, she juggles her thankless profession and her ruined marriage. Her husband, barely present, has outsourced all of her family obligations to her, from looking after her sick, non-verbal father, to attending receptions with loved ones on her behalf.
The news broadcasts also make her aware of the political unrest in her native Malaysia. Singapore being a country made up of people from diverse backgrounds, including many immigrants, the idea of being from another country prevails in Chen’s work. It is however more visible in “Ilo Ilo”.
And so, in this fragile state with no support system, the gentle attention of her teenage student Wei Lun (Jia Ler) comes as a respite. Tonally, Chen maintains an air of innocence in their not-yet-inappropriate relationship, but while this movie doesn’t know about the nastiness of Hannah Fidell’s “A Teacher,” it also heads for confusion and broken trust.
The plot quickly turns out to revolve around the emotional ineptitude of the men around him, who are all naturally immature or infirm. Cruel circumstances caused her to always reluctantly mother someone – her stepfather or Wei Lun – but negatively separate from the way she had envisioned him. Wei Lun’s arc reads thin: an inexperienced boy in love whose parents travel for work.
Thanks to several expected revelations, Yeo’s restraint prevents “Wet Season” from giving way to a complete melodrama, at least until a scene in the third act that tears a page of “The Notebook”. There is a sense of balance in the muted intensity of her exchanges with Jia Ler. In the interest of protecting his work, she gives very little with her smiles or silent screams, while he exudes the awkward liveliness of youth.
It’s a fascinating move by Chen to launch Yeo and Jia Ler almost a decade after they were mother and son onscreen, now in an almost romantic coupling between individuals with deep voids. Yeo runs away with the movie when it comes to the degree of difficulty involved in his role, given that his character has a lot more at stake and crosses many lines in the process of reevaluating himself.