15 gained its film notoriety locally for its content, about the lives and angst of teenage delinquents in Singapore. However, after watching this film, one might think a little deeper about the trials and tribulations that these teenagers face, from the angle that director Royston Tan presents.
The opening credits was stylishly done, and this is very surprising actually, for a local film. The feel of the movie was like a series of short snippets of set pieces, be it gang fights, body piercing, the etching of a tattoo on one's body, body mutilations, the swallowing of condom filled Ecstasy pills, etc. And stringing it all together were manga inspired transitions done Japanese documentary style of huge words smacked across the screen.
While these stylistic techniques drew attention to themselves, the main leads were also infamously rumoured to be in similar dire straits as the characters. The street wise teenagers actually looked sincere in their acting (or were they?) and it's a wonder how Royston managed to coax them into starring in his movie.
The plot, as mentioned, consists of short stories which fell into 3 acts. The first, being the brotherhood between 2 friends who ponder the meaning of their aimless lives. They know that they are condemned in the eyes of society, and find solace in the company of themselves. The second act was a bit comical, as 2 friends helped an ex-enemy to look for a building to commit suicide in. And the last act continued with examining the lives and friendship between the same 2 friends.
Sure, peppered throughout the dialogue are constant swearing, smoking, drug-taking, porn watching, lip piercing (which irked the audience), hokkien song singing, but there's a limit to how much these novelties can disguise a lack of focus in certain parts of the story, especially towards the end. I felt the strength of this film was in the first act, where you could actually feel the desperation and crying out for direction in life, and eventually the succumbing to the belief of what Fate has dealt them.
Nonetheless, for its stark and pointed commentary, this is certainly a departure from the usual stories that one might associate teenagers with. It's gritty, dark, melancholic to the point of despair, this is a glimpse into the troubled lives of the local misguided youth.
This film was the closing film for Screen Singapore 2005, thus ending a month long showcase of Singapore films.
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