This time the main victim of affective neglect is absentminded teacher Ling (Yeo). Trying for a child through IVF, she juggles her thankless profession and her crumbling marriage. Her husband, barely present, has outsourced all of his familial obligations to her, from taking care of his ill, non-verbal father, to attending functions with his relatives on his behalf.
News broadcasts also make her aware of the political turmoil in her native Malaysia. With Singapore being a country comprised of people from diverse backgrounds, including plenty of immigrants, the idea of being from another land prevails in Chen’s work. It is, however, more conspicuous in “Ilo Ilo.”
And so, in that fragile state with no support system, gentle attention from her teenage student Wei Lun (Jia Ler) comes as a respite. Tonally, Chen maintains an air of innocence in their not-yet-inappropriate relationship, but even if this film doesn’t connote the malice of Hannah Fidell’s “A Teacher,” it also heads toward confusion and broken trust.
The plot quickly reveals itself to revolve around the emotional ineptitude of the men in her immediate circle, who are all either understandably immature or infirm. Cruel circumstances have made it so that she’s always reluctantly mothering someone—her father-in-law or Wei Lun—but negatively distinct from the way she had envisioned it. Wei Lun’s arc reads as thin: a boy inexperienced in love whose parents travel for work.
Through several expected revelations, Yeo’s restraint keeps “Wet Season” from giving into to full melodrama, at least until a scene in the third act that rips a page from “The Notebook.” There’s a sense of balance in the muted intensity of her exchanges with Jia Ler. In the interest of protecting her job, she gives away very little with her smiles or silent cries, while he transpires the clumsy vivaciousness of youthful manhood.
It’s a fascinating move from Chen to cast Yeo and Jia Ler almost a decade after they were mother and son on screen, now in a quasi-romantic coupling between individuals with deep voids. Yeo runs away with the movie in regards to the grade of difficulty involved in her part, given that her character has much more at stake and crosses many lines in the process of revaluing herself.