There are plenty of rules a mother should abide by in the month after she has given birth. In this period known as confinement, some of the common taboos include no bathing or washing hair, no leaving the house, no strenuous physical activity… the list goes on.
To ensure new parenthood goes as smoothly as possible, traditional Chinese families also hire a confinement lady, or nanny, to care for both mother and child during these 28 days.
It’s a different story altogether when you suspect the nanny of having nefarious intentions and might harm your baby. Helmed by Singaporean director Kelvin Tong of “The Maid” (2005) fame, “Confinement” explores this unlikely but wholly terrifying situation.
Siling (Rebecca Lim) is a heavily pregnant woman who moves into temporary housing until she finds a permanent place. When her baby arrives early, she employs a confinement lady named Ah Qing (Cynthia Koh) to help her out.
Soon, Siling notices strange things begin happening, including hearing the whispers and laughter of a little girl. Not exactly what you’d want to experience in a big empty house!
Over the weeks, Ah Qing’s friendly demeanour starts slipping and she begins to enforce the rules with an iron fist.
At the same time, Siling suspects the nanny is secretly in contact with the baby’s father, whom she wants nothing to do with – causing her to doubt her sanity when Ah Qing denies her claims.
So, is the film any good? Headlining a movie for the first time after multiple roles on television, Lim carries “Confinement” with confidence, effectively conveying the emotions of an increasingly fraught Siling.
As her character teeters on the edge of sanity, the actress makes you feel her anxiety, terror and determination while battling the demons of her past, all while striving to protect her baby from unseen forces in a strange house.
Fun fact: the old mansion that contributes to most of the movie’s setting is located in Kuala Lumpur!
Fun fact #2: Lim found out she was pregnant after filming wrapped, and shared during a press conference attended by FMT Lifestyle that she will depend on her sister-in-law’s confinement lady so as to “avoid hiring someone she’s not familiar with”!
Anyhoo. Not to be outdone, Koh, too, offers a stellar performance as Ah Qing, where every seemingly innocent gesture and glance will have you questioning her nanny’s motives.
And as Ah Qing slowly turns up the pressure to make Siling believe she’s crazy, both actresses are equally convincing and play off each other well.
Elsewhere, recurring bad dreams and a scene involving the chopping of bloody innards to be cooked for dinner are creepy as heck and will stick in your mind.
If there is one criticism, it’s the absence of moments that establish the bond between Siling and her baby, which lowers the stakes as well as the urgency to wrap the mystery up.
But despite some minor pacing issues, “Confinement” is a solid thriller that will make you doubt how much you should trust the person who’s taking care of your baby.
As of press time, ‘Confinement’ is screening in cinemas nationwide.