A Royston Tan Film
"12 Lotus is a masterful achievement of darkness and light"-Terry Ong
Told in two parts through 12 vignettes from traditional getai number "12 Lotus," the film begins with a young Lian Hua (Li Bao En) and her painful childhood: Discouraged from being a getai singer, she gets mistreated by her abusive father (TV actor Huang Li Yiang) from young, but with the help of Quang Yin (the Goddess of Mercy), manages to get through life and becomes a successful singer [played by an engaging Mindee Ong (881) in the adult role]. Her love interest in comes the form of fellow debonair getai performer Ah Long (a competent but bland Qi Yu Wu, The Home Song Stories), who also happens to be a liar and a cheat, and ultimately betrays her. The rest of the film, peppered with even more ballads and upbeat song-and-dance tunes courtesy of local composer Eric Ng (881), centers on the older Lian Hua [a funny Liu Ling Ling (881)], and her coming to terms with her condition.
Sure, 12 Lotus is very fun to watch just like 881, but it is its emotional and dramatic content that got to us. More than just a film about a tortured heroine who will never know the meaning of happiness, director Royston Tan also manages to bring forth deeper themes like fate, fraternity, inevitability, impermanence and solitaire [like the works of late Polish master filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski (Three Colors: Blue, White, Red), which Tan has cited as a major influence], albeit subtly here, and splash it with a Technicolor reverence to up its entertainment quotient. 12 Lotus is a masterful achievement of darkness and light, perhaps even more than the filmmaker will lead himself to believe.
This is Singapore ennui at its most affecting and heartbreaking, and quiet possibly, our best local film yet.