Commissioned by Singapore’s Health Promotion Board, this telemovie had the purpose of raising awareness regarding dementia, but Eric Khoo still managed to include a couple of themes of his own. Let us see what it is about.
The story begins with Qiu Yun, a chef specializing in French cuisine, who despite the frequent rebukes she receives from her boss, is actually quite good in her job, to the point that some investors have made an official proposal to her, to run a French restaurant of her own. However, as she is about to begin her new life, her mother, Madam Ching, who has been running a hawker stall selling scissor cut curry rice for decades, is diagnosed with dementia. Madam Ching cannot handle her ailment, and soon lashes out to her employees, to the point they decide to leave her, despite the years they have been working with her. Despite her husband’s protests, Qiu Yun brings her mother to stay with the two of them and their daughter, and gradually she is reacquainted with the traditional local cuisine.
Dementia and its consequences are the main theme of “Recipe”, with Khoo presenting both with a subtle realism, avoiding any kind of melodramatic moments, in a tactic that I feel benefitted the message the film aimed to communicate. Apart from this concept though, Khoo also deals with the theme of tradition-localization versus progress-globalization (revolving around food ) and the connection between parents and children, particularly regarding the always sensitive subject of if the latter will follow the professional footsteps of the former. These two concepts receive a rather definite answer here, with Khoo’s solution being a conciliatory one, that the tradition and the parents’ footsteps should be followed, but with the addition of new elements introduced by the next generations.
These three concepts and their presentation carry the film for the whole of its 46 minutes, and result in a spectacle that is meaningful as much as entertaining, as it also exemplifies the love Khoo seems to foster for the culinary. Adrian Tan’s cinematography implements this love and the realism that permeates the narrative quite nicely.
The acting is also on a high level, with Zoe Tay highlighting her inner struggle for the dilemmas she has to face convincingly, and Li Ying Zhu functioning as the personification of dementia with accuracy and artistry as Madam Ching. The one who steals the show though is Moses Lim as the flirty “companion” of Madam Ching, who is the main source of humor in the film.
Not much more to say, “Recipe” is a small but well-done and entertaining film, which I feel communicated its message about dementia in the best way possible.