Reviewed by Chen Chiou Beng
Director: Eric Khoo
Writing Credits: Eric Khoo, James Toh
Cast: Jack Neo, Quan Yifeng, Koh Boon Pin, Lucilla Teoh, Lum May Yee
Languages: Hokkien, Mandarin, English
Year Released: 1997
Runtime: 110 minutes
Rating: **½ (out of four stars)
In 1995, Singapore's films took a turn for the better. Before then, the film industry in this country was normally taken as a joke. In that year, Bugis Street and Mee Pok Man were both critical and commercial successes. Then, a series of films began to come out from Singapore and in 1997, three premiered in that year's Singapore International Film Festival, Twelve Storeys being one of them.
The story of Twelve Storeys begins with a suicide in a Housing Development Board (HDB) block of flats, where 90 percent of Singaporeans live. Through this event we uncover three different families living in the flats whose stories intertwine, and are guided by the spirit of the man who committed suicide at the beginning of the film.
The first involves a noodle seller husband, played by Singapore popular comedian Jack Neo, and his Chinese bride wife. She's bitchy, she's hot, and she's constantly complaining about her current life. The second story tells about a brother overprotective of his siblings, especially his sister. He's a guy that loves to brag about his sexual life, but reality he has little knowledge of it. When he discovers that his sister has been with other men, he freaks out. The third, and arguably the most boring of the lot, has an obese woman who is controlled by her nagging mother. Constantly, she feels like a loser and finally she loses control when an old friend visits.
However, the stories themselves are unresolved, and this is one complaint I have for the film. Another is that all the stories are slow moving and tend to have scenes unrelated in the film. For a film that has traveled all the way to the Cannes Film Festival and from the director who put Singapore films on the international map, this is a minor disappointment.