#LookAtMe (2022)

Even when it falls back into a kind of televisual style, Kwek’s work is always engaging as it tackles the thorny local LGBT issue with a kind of reactionary bite that is rare in Singapore cinema.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,555

Dir. Ken Kwek
2022 | Singapore | Drama | 108min | 1.78:1 | English, Mandarin & Malay
Banned in Singapore – exceeds R21 guidelines

Cast: Yao, Pam Oei, Shu Yi Ching, Janice Koh, Adrian Pang
Plot: A Youtuber posts an irreverent video trolling a megachurch pastor, in defence of his gay twin brother. He is vilified by society, tried in court, and pitted against a culture that threatens to destroy his family.
International Sales: Eko Pictures

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Slightly Mature – LGBT; Religion; Politics
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: Screener
Spoilers: No

If in an alternate universe where the local classification board, without batting an eyelid, had allowed Ken Kwek’s new work to be screened theatrically, there wouldn’t have been a need to produce a film like this in the first place.  But the reality is that we are a Jekyll and Hyde society, always putting one step forward only to find ourselves taking two steps back. 

#LookAtMe continues Kwek’s fondness for confronting social issues in Singaporean society, in this case, a thorny one that has ruffled one feather too many over the years: the call to repeal Section 377A, a law that criminalises sex between consenting adult males.  (The archaic law has finally been struck off in December last year.) 

“Every country has a right-wing evangelical looney or two like that, right?”

Shaping a narrative out of a megachurch pastor who speaks unsavourily of homosexuality, and a young man’s viral video reaction in support of his gay twin brother, Kwek’s film puts religion, politics and law into the combustion chamber, and out comes a spirited movie of many hats—a family drama, a prison ordeal, a revenge thriller, to name a few. 

#LookAtMe is always engaging even when it falls back into a kind of televisual style, and perhaps because of it, there is a strong commercial appeal, which may be a double-edged sword and begs the question: if Kwek had made a much more arthouse piece with supposedly little mainstream appeal, would the authorities have allowed it to screen once or twice at a festival? 

In any case, #LookAtMe has a kind of reactionary bite that is rare in Singapore cinema—it is not so much about being a bold or daring filmmaker (though Kwek is, and I salute him and his creative team for it), but the need for us citizens to be ready to shape a culture of open conversation, rather than continually enabling one of censorship and intimidation. 

Grade: B


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