It’s a real shame many Malaysians barely pay attention to new local films that hit the cinemas. Local filmmakers need a chance to shine, and some of their works may surprise you in terms of quality and entertainment value.
Case in point? “La Luna”, a Malaysian-Singaporean collaboration releasing locally on Thursday and in the republic next week.
Singaporean director M Raihan Halim leads a cast of largely Malaysian performers in a pleasant movie that is surprisingly deeper than its trailer and poster might lead you to think.
Set in the present day, “La Luna” takes place in the fictional rural village of Bras Basah, a quintessential Malaysian kampung named after a district in Singapore. Its police chief, Salihin (Shaheizy Sam), is divorced and has a young, rebellious daughter, Azura (Syumaila Salihin).
Life in the village is quiet and unchanging, just the way its conservative leader, Tok Hassan (Wan Hanafi Su), likes it – until the modern-minded and outgoing Hanie (Sharifah Amani) shows up and takes residence in her ancestral home.
Much to the villagers’ shock and Tok Hassan’s outrage, she turns it into the kampung’s first-ever lingerie shop!
A battle of wills thus commences as the old man does everything in his power to oust Hanie, who stands her ground and forms alliances with some of the villagers.
Meanwhile, sparks fly between her and Salihin – so much so that some of the villagers start commenting on it.
Who will be first to yield? Will Salihin and Hanie get together? Will ultraconservatism or underwear win out? Find out by watching this film!
So, how does “La Luna” fare as a comedy? Good news: out of every 10 jokes, nine are likely to hit the funny bone. The movie has a good sense of comedic timing and can be quite, shall we say, “daring” with its humour.
A good chunk of laughs are derived from the sexual repression of the villagers, thanks to Tok Hassan’s oppressive rules. Hanie’s arrival, therefore, brings a breath of fresh air to the village’s bedrooms.
Also a breath of fresh air? The filmmakers’ awareness that sex jokes need not necessarily be vulgar to be funny.
Further working in the movie’s favour are the characters, who – while not being entirely novel – are likeable and memorable. Shaheizy Sam has always had a knack for playing grounded characters, and he continues to do so as the semi-jaded officer Salihin.
While uptight at times, it is clear he is not entirely on board with Tok Hassan’s regime and turns out to be more nuanced than he looks. Plus, his chemistry with Sharifah’s Hanie is potent!
Speaking of whom, veteran actress Sharifah shines as Hanie, a character who will likely inspire some local lasses by refusing to be talked down to by self-righteous men.
Credit is also due to Wan Hanfafi’s Tok Hassan, the grumpy antagonist whom you’d assume will be redeemed by the end. Spoiler alert: he isn’t.
The film’s portrayal of a religious fanatic who is also an unrepentant hypocrite is admirable: he talks much about maintaining the kampung’s “purity”, with little regard to how stifling life in the village has become.
Early on, Azura calls him a fascist; by the end, you might realise she was right.
Indeed, beneath the superficial levity, there is serious commentary being shared. From women’s autonomy to political misuse of religion, “La Luna” tackles quite a number of themes in a tactful manner.
And for this reason alone, the movie is worth a watch. Otherwise, sit back, relax, and enjoy a good laugh!
‘La Luna’ screens in cinemas nationwide from Thursday.