by Adelyn Tan (16A01E)
Produced by Cathay in commemoration of its 80th anniversary, Our Sister Mambo is the newest Singaporean romantic comedy to hit theatres this week. Inspired by iconic Cathay classic Our Sister Hedy, it illustrates the lives of the Wong household and the hijinks they get up to on our sunny island. The life of Mrs Wong (Audrey Luo) revolves around watching Korean dramas with her movie buff husband (Moses Lim), praying for her daughters to get married, and being constantly exasperated by those selfsame daughters.
Eldest daughter Grace (Ethel Yap) has a Mainland-born boyfriend who happens to be a divorcee with a young daughter; titular character Mambo (Michelle Chong) quits her successful job in a law firm to apprentice herself to celebrity chef Willin Low; sultry third sister Rose (Oon Shu An) goes through boyfriends like Hogwarts goes through DADA professors, and June (Joey Leong) is your average teenager who declares she can wake up on time for an important meeting and proceeds to oversleep the next morning. They each face their own trials and tribulations, and the happy ending is ultimately only achieved through understanding, patience and great love.
Funny and relatable, the characters sketched in Our Sister Mambo are all-too-familiar for a Singaporean audience. The plot is relatively easy to follow, though slightly disjointed and lacking focus – this stems from a commendable effort to give each of the six Wong family members equal screen time and a significant character arc. The stellar lineup is significant in bringing the movie to greater heights – Audrey Luo has impeccable comedic timing; Michelle Chong shines in her lead role; Ethel proves her mettle in her onscreen debut; Shu An turns Rose’s man-eater stereotype on its head. Even supporting characters such as aspiring star Siti (Siti Khalijah) and June’s boyfriend (Ebi Shankara) bring to the table brilliant performances and three-dimensional storylines. Despite the rapid pacing, the characters work with and around each other seamlessly to create a splendid story with a satisfying conclusion, leaving one with a fuzzy, warm, happy ending that’s classic but not cliched.
More than anything, the movie pays tribute to the golden years of the fifties and sixties, where Singapore was moving away from the post-war period into a time where we were known as the financial hub of Southeast Asia, marking the beginning of the rise of the metropolis it is today. In an age defined by impermanence, rapid development and cutting-edge technology, Our Sister Mambo gives us insight on how it’s actually possible to preserve the past without compromising on future progress, and indeed why we ought to keep our history alive. In this pivotal SG50 year, Our Sister Mambo is a timely reminder for us to reflect upon Singapore’s history beyond the pages of school textbooks and newspaper archives. Integral to the plot are details about how the entertainment industry has evolved over the course of fifty years, how our country has changed beyond measure and how despite all of that, familial and romantic love transcends time and distance. Through the course of the movie, Mrs Wong learns to loosen her apron strings a little and accept her daughters for who they are and who they love. The lesson she takes away is one the audience comes to understand as well: that above all, what’s most important is to love and be loved with no qualms.
If you’re looking for a feel-good piece of family entertainment this week complete with laugh-out-loud humour, Our Sister Mambo is the way to go. Just don’t be surprised if you leave the theatre wanting to ply your grandparents with questions about their childhood and fighting the overwhelming urge to break out in a spirited rendition of Grace Chang’s 说不出的快活.
JA JAM BO!
Our Sister Mambo has a runtime of 93 minutes and is currently being screened at all Cathay cinemas islandwide.