15

"Very Good"

15 Review


There have been plenty of movies about dissaffected American youth, and disaffected Japanese youth, and disaffected British youth, and disaffected Korean youth. Someday, someone will write a movie in which all these groups come together in one violent rumble to determine which country creates the most psychotic teens. (My money's on the Koreans.)

In the meantime, Singapore -- of all places -- joins the fray with 15, an energetic, scary, and ultimately sad slice of life in which five aimless teens smoke, fight, pierce each other, get tattoos, and skip school, sulking their way through steamy Singaporean afternoons talking big about brotherhood, loyalty, and gang philosophy while hurling funny insults at each other. "Your brother smells like a durian" is considered a prime putdown.

Director Roystan Tan brings a frenetic style that combines title cards, special effects, animation, and music video editing techniques to show the chaos of these young lives, and amazingly enough, he got the Singapore Film Commission to back him, only to find his film censored after it was first screened.

The five non-actor 15-year-olds Tan recruited from housing projects for his film average about 5'4" and 110 pounds, yet they see themselves as big men in a world that, like the world of Larry Clark's Kids (or Peanuts, for that matter), is almost totally devoid of adults. None of the boys has a stable family; they're always getting kicked out of their homes for one infraction or another. None spends much time in school, although their concern about an upcoming school talent show leads to several funny scenes of gang-related karaoke singing.

Basically plotless, 15's longest and most memorable scene has two of the boys helping a third as he embarks on a citywide search to find the best building from which to hurl himself in a suicide attempt the next day. Toting placards that say "I Want to Die" in Chinese characters, they head out on a whirlwind tour of Singapore, stopping to insult the color schemes or the bad feng shui of the buildings they deem unsuitable.

Given how badly behaved and obnoxious the quintet can be, their despair is touching. They cling to each other, sometimes literally, looking for anchors of friendship in an uptight conformist society they think has simply tossed them out like trash. Tan does best when he slows down and lets his camera linger on the boys' sad faces. "Men's tears are precious," says one, but their tears do fall. Despite their piercings and tattoos, these kids aren't as tough as they look.

Aka 15: The Movie.

Tiny bubbles / In the malaise.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 95 mins

In Theaters: Friday 21st October 2005

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 5.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Roystan Tan

Producer: Tan Fong Cheng, Eric Khoo

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