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Tomorrow is a Long Time

A teenager longs to escape from a home collapsing under the weight of grief; a life-altering event catapults him into an exciting adventure - Singaporean drama premieres at the Berlin Film Festival


Released and written as a quiet tribute to the Asian family structure, Jow Zhi Wei’s Tomorrow Is A Long Time is gripping from the opening shot to the somber closing one. Indeed, it’s even better than Danny, Boy Champion Of The World (Gavin Miller, 1989) – the similarly themed portrait of father- son bond that was adapted from a Roald Dahl book – because it’s so confident in its focus of the little moments that make up a lifelong tapestry.

As stories go, it’s deceptively simple: teenage Meng lives with his father, as the two of them grieve for a mother who brought clarity to their lives. Life flits around the most everyday of chores, so Meng finds excitement at his school, where he engages in taunting, bullying and jeering other learners. Adventure springs its head, driving Meng into a journey that doubles as his springboard into adulthood.

Wei’s films (the director has previously made three short movies), with some reason, focuses their attention on the family structure in life. Little moments envelope into something grander and more wholesome. But what beauty exists behind these characters, who throw themselves into the centre of their domain with great interest: a real sense of ownership and agency is available in this film. It is commonplace to describe these flourishes as holistic; but Wei’s work aims to penetrate some of the mysteries that surround them, and by doing so, it offers closure to the audience. After Meng comes to grip with his mother’s death, he becomes susceptible to the perfumes from his nearby environment (played with impressive responsibility by Edward Tan.)

Meng is persuaded to push paternal boundaries by exploring his surrounding area: by doing so, jumps into the lake of adulthood, where choice and consequences differ according to the eye of the beholder. Meng’s father shows his intuitive knowledge of their family history through a series of minute gestures, although it only creates a greater barrier between him and his child. As a parent queries the trust he has in his adolescent, a teenager begins to question his future, particularly at such a pressing moment in his trajectory. Ultimately, the questions test the leads, much as they test the audience’s intellect, but the two leads ultimately stand as reflections of one another: strident, resourceful and deeply soulful.

Julius Foo is brilliant as Lee, the film’s third most significant character, and Neo Swee Lin makes an impression as Wan, the one woman in the film who tellingly ties it together with wisdom and barbed wit.

Tomorrow is a Long Time just premiered at the Berlin Film Festival’s Generation 14plus strand.

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