Review: 'Before We Forget' thought-provokingly explores a family's modern problems

Marcus Goh
Contributor
“Before We Forget”. (Photo: Three Pictures)

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? If you watched the “The Kid from the Big Apple”. 

Score: 3.5/5

Secret ending? No.

Running time: 121 minutes (~2 hours)

“Before We Forget”. (Photo: Three Pictures)

“Before We Forget” is a Malaysian family drama in Chinese. It is the sequel to “The Kid from the Big Apple”. It is also known as “The Kid From The Big Apple 2: Before We Forget”.

Although the family’s three generations were reunited in the previous film, a new obstacle arises that threatens to ruin their happiness. Amidst all this, Sarah and her mother must come to terms with a missing element in their life. If their family doesn’t manage to overcome all these challenges, then all the events in the previous film will have been for naught.

“Before We Forget” is written and directed by Jess Teong. It stars Tommy Tam (Lin Chun Gen), Saran Tan Qin Lin (Sarah Lin), Debbie Goh (Sophia Lin), Shaun Tam (Hao Nan), Jason Tan (Zhang Jia Bao), Ling Tang (Aunty Meng), Kelvin Leong (Uncle Meng), and Lenna Lim (Ivy). It is rated PG.

“Before We Forget”. (Photo: Three Pictures)

With the severe relationship rifts mended in the previous film, “Before We Forget” goes in a fairly different direction by weaving a tale about a situation that’s common to many families. It sees a surprising jump in solemnity from “The Kid from the Big Apple” as it tackles much darker and uncomfortable issues. It could have gone with its original formula of telling a heartbreaking (but poignant) story, but expanded in a less emotional, but more relatable way.

Highlights

Tommy Tam delivers a touching performance

While grumpy old grandfather Chun Gen (Tommy Tam) may seem to have resolved all his family issues, he faces new ones that test his character. As with many senior citizens, he finds it difficult to acknowledge that his life circumstances have changed, and to adapt to different positions of strength. But Tam exhibits an impressive range as he portrays Chun Gen at various stages of his journey, and ultimately still manages to endear himself to us in a whole new way.

Tough themes to think about

Family is still a central theme in “Before We Forget”, but it’s explored alongside other issues that are uncomfortable to discuss, especially since they deal with the inevitability of certain outcomes. It also looks at changing perspectives of unconventional relationships, and whether their acceptability is still a factor in today’s world. However, it doesn’t give any easy answers, leaving these questions lingering long after you’ve left the theatre.

“Before We Forget”. (Photo: Three Pictures)

Thought-provoking with a proper resolution 

While the film does raise thought-provoking themes, it still gives closure to the story and characters. The story concludes with a definite answer as to the fate of the whole family, even if it is unable to provide solutions to the modern problems. It’s a fine balancing act, one that the film manages to straddle admirably.

Expands on, rather than retreads, the first film

The problem with many sequels is that they try to replicate the same formula that made their predecessor work so well. Too often, this means undoing the events of the first and regressing the character development of all the protagonists. Even if it may not be as emotionally touching as the first, this film acknowledges and builds on what has come before and goes in a thematically new direction.

“Before We Forget”. (Photo: Three Pictures)

Letdowns

Romance element feels odd

There’s a romantic subplot in the film, but it feels out of place in a family drama. It’s not unwarranted, and it’s introduced organically, but it feels like it was a story that belonged in another film.

Requires knowledge of the first film

In order to truly understand the significance of “Before We Forget”, audiences will have to watch “The Kid from the Big Apple”. It’s not truly a standalone film, as certain events require prior contextual knowledge to have their full dramatic impact. It’s a minor quibble, as it’s a sequel and sequels often require you to have viewed the previous film, but it would have worked better if it were a self-contained story.

“Before We Forget”. (Photo: Three Pictures)

“Before We Forget” makes the brave choice of taking on a different subject matter from the first film, since it could not have logically recreated similar family conflict without it looking too manufactured. As a result, it’s a sequel more in terms of chronological plot progression rather than in spirit, and is more of an evolution of a family drama, rather than a continuation of it.

“Before We Forget” opens in cinemas:
– 17 November, 2017 (Singapore)
– 16 November, 2017 (Malaysia)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter, having written for “Lion Mums”, “Crimewatch”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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