Mukhsin is a beautiful movie about a first love story. Everyone probably has one, and this is writer-director Yasmin Ahmad's story of hers, with a boy called Mukhsin. We know that her movies have been semi-autobiographical of sorts, having scenes drawn upon her personal experiences, and it is indeed this sharing and translating of these emotions to the big screen, that has her films always exude a warm sincerity and honesty. Mukhsin is no different, and probably the most polished and confident work to date (though I must add, as a personal bias, that Sepet still has a special place in my heart).
Our favourite family is back - Pak Atan, Mak Inom, Orked and Kak Yam, though this time, we go back to when Orked is age 10. The characters are all younger from the movies we've journeyed with them, from Rabun to Gubra, and here, Sharifah Amani's sisters Sharifah Aryana and Sharifah Aleya take on the roles of Orked and Mak Inom respectively, which perhaps accounted for their excellent chemistry together on screen, nevermind that they are not playing sibling roles. The only constant it seems is Kak Yam, played by Adibah Noor, and even Pak Atan has hair on his head!
Through Mukshin the movie, we come full circle with the characters, and the world that Yasmin has introduced us to. We come to learn of and understand the family a little bit more, set in the days when they're still living in their kampung (revisited back in Rabun), where Orked attends a Chinese school, and packs some serious combination of punches (and you wonder about that burst of energy in Gubra, well, she had it in her since young!). The perennial tomboy and doted child of the family, she prefers playing with the boys in games, rather than mindless "masak-masak" with the girls, and favourite outings include going with the family to football matches.
The arrival of a boy called Mukhsin (Mohd Syafie Naswip) to the village provides a cool peer for Orked to hang out and do stuff with - cycling through the villages, climbing trees, flying kites. And as what is desired to be explored, the crossing of that line between friendship and romance, both beautiful emotions.
Mukhsin does have its cheeky moments which liven up the story, and bring about laughter, because some of the incidents, we would have experienced it ourselves, and sometimes serve as a throwback to our own recollection of childhood. In short, those scenes screamed "fun"! We observe the life in a typical kampung, where some neighbours are very nice, while others, the nosy parkers and rumour mongers, spreading ill gossip stemming from envy. There are 2 additional family dynamics seen, one from an immediate neighbour, and the other from Mukhsin's own, both of which serve as adequate subplots, and contrast to Orked's own.
As always, Yasmin's movies are filled with excellent music, and for Mukhsin, it has something special, the song "Hujan" as penned by her father, as well as "Ne Me Quitte Pas", aptly used in the movie
Given that the Yasmin's movies to date have been centred around the same characters, the beauty of it is that you can watch them as stand alone, or when watched and pieced together, makes a compelling family drama dealing with separate themes and universal issues like interracial romance, love, and forgiveness. Fans will definitely see the many links in Mukhsin back to the earlier movies, while new audiences will surely be curious to find out certain whys and significance of recurring characters or events, like that pudgy boy who steals glances at Orked.
And speaking of whys, parts of Mukhsin too is curiously open, which probably is distinctive of Yasmin's style, or deliberately left as such. I thought that as a story about childhood, recollected from memory, then there are details which will be left out for sure. And subtly, I felt that Mukhsin exhibited this perfectly, with not so detailed details, and the focus on what can be remembered in significant episodes between the two.
Another highly recommended movie, and a rare one that I feel is suitable for all ages - bring along your kid brother or sister! I will be watching it again when I'm back in Singapore, so in the meantime, if you've already watched Mukhsin, please share your thoughts with me?
I have a personal thought which contains spoilers, so for those who do not wish to know why two particular scenes struck me, you can stop reading now. I was on the set of Mukhsin, and watching this particular scene played out in narrative order, I felt, and I could be wrong, that it was almost like a surreal sense of things to come for Orked, that both she and Mukhsin had somehow crossed a barrier of time on their cycling trip, and looked at what their future held - that she was with Jason, living the good life in the kampung, that her first love Mukhsin would not be the one she would end up with, as mentioned in the epilogue. Then again Yasmin could have enjoyed, and fans all around would have given an arm or leg to see Orked and Jason together again - though not necessary as the characters, just Sharifah Amani and Ng Choo Seong in the same cinematic frame, akin to many other cast from the earlier movies, returning as different characters in this movie. Curiously though, Sharifah Amani's character did address Ng Choo Seong as Jason, and a subtle indirect reference to (motor)bike riding. One wonders.
The ending too links back to Sepet perfectly, though somehow that bit of narration at the end touched me. It's bittersweet, that while you lose something/someone, Love will always be kind and offer that second chance to you. I guess I didn't do justice to that scene here, you have to watch it to understand and feel why.