So far the Singapore feature films screened at this year's Singapore International Film Festival have featured local filmmakers spreading their wings to countries abroad, making their debut features in places such as Siem Reap and in Sing the Blues' case, Kyoto, Japan, with the additional challenge of working with cast and crew members speaking in an entirely different language.
Clocking in at just under an hour, Sing the Blues adapts from a real life incident where a manhunt got put in place to look for a teen suspected of killing a foreigner, with the filmmakers adding their own spin to create a what-if story where they fictionalize just what could have happened in the years where he went about undetected, how his life would have been while on the run. And the film opens with just that, where we see Yuki (Torii Kotaro) on board a train entering Kyoto, trying to leave behind what would be an incredible emotional baggage, struggling to try and carve a new life.
And things don't happen to be easy, as he encounters various characters, each who will impact his life, or vice versa, in different ways. There's the gangsters whom he meets who mug him of his wallet, a busking duo consisting of a man who cannot sing and a blind drummer, a girl who works at the ramen shop with whom a telling relationship got off to a promising start though we know is doomed for the secrets he's hiding, and as a day job, decided to work in a cafe where he has to cross dress and fulfill the fantasies of customers, much to his own disgust even.
Talk about these all happening under an hour of runtime, with Kenji (Kido Masao) the policeman with dogged determination who had worked on the manhunt for the last few years, and with his gut feel telling him his colleagues in the force are barking up the wrong tree and chasing in the direction of Fukuoka, decided to make a detour and head toward Kyoto instead, where he connects with a local police force veteran to try and search and apprehend someone whom they have never seen before.
The supporting characters become brief encounters and therefore there's a lack of deeper characterization since a lot more time got devoted to following Yuki as he goes about his mundane business of smoking and eating, looking quite lost and clueless as he plots his next course of action. There were attempts however to give each supporting character additional scenes to further explain their lives, but these came off as nothing more than filler scenes that were not crucial to the main plot other than to sprawl the narrative to provide an audience a bang for their buck.
Sing the Blues picks up in its last act which was tension filled, with nicely choreographed action to go with it, for a film of its scale. But if only the rest of the film was as tightly paced and I felt could have done without some support characters since their back stories and motivation didn't get fleshed out properly, and shouldn't have gone for scenes which were used to play up some misplaced horror elements from its premise that were more relevant should the genre here be horror. Still it's a great effort put in as far as debut feature filmmaking goes.