Movie Review: That Girl in Pinafore (我的朋友, 我的同学, 我爱过的一切)

That Girl in Pinafore (我的朋友, 我的同学, 我爱过的一切) is a 2013  made-in-Singapore comedy-musical film directed by Chai Yee-wei and starring Julie Tan, Daren Tan, Jayley Woo, Hayley Woo, Kenny Khoo, Seah Jiaqing and Kelvin Mun:

The director has one other commercial film under his belt in 2011 – TWISTED (撞鬼). I mentioned in my review of Twisted that I look forward to Chai Yee Wei’s next movie. It is here now and he did not disappoint.

Like his previous movie, That Girl in Pinafore has high production quality, no difference from many of the other movies produced by Asian cinema powerhouses like Hong Kong and Thailand.

I am a big fan of xinyao (新谣) and I love the fact that the movie is themed around xinyao in the 80s, my growing up years.

The movie reminds me of the wildly successful 2011 Taiwanese growing-up romance film, You Are the Apple of My Eye (那些年,我們一起追的女孩), directed by Taiwanese author Giddens Ko (九把刀).

The timing is just right to cash-in on the nostalgia wave. Those born in the 70s and 80s like me are now in the prime of our life and career. We are likely to be key breadwinners in our households and will be the ones with a fat wallet to milk from.

The casting of 30-year-old Daren Tan as an 18-year-old teenager made for an awkward start, but the writers were quick to get it out of the way by introducing him from the beginning as a “chao lao (old-looking)” guy who retained during primary school for two years and did five years in secondary school.

The xinyao songs were lovely and woven in nicely into the storyline.  For me, it was worth watching the movie just to hear classics like 邂逅 and 細水長流 play on the big screen.

The cast of mostly young, unknown talents was a refreshing break from the stale pool of TV actors and actresses we tend to see in many local productions. The two leads, Julie Tan and Daren Tan, both put in commendable performance.

Overall, I find the ending a little cheesy, but it is still a very enjoyable movie. That Girl in Pinafore should do well in the local box-office. It has many of the necessary ingredients for success – a youthful cast, nostalgic storyline, lovely xinyao soundtrack and high production quality.

A big congratulations to Chai Yee Wai on a job well done. 🙂

That Girl in Pinafore is now showing in Singapore cinemas. Go catch it!

Here is the full synopsis via the movie’s official Facebook page:

Should you listen to your heart or follow your head?

A coming of age teenage romance from Singapore set in 1993, about dreams, friendships, first love, and the difficult choice between following your head, or listening to your heart.
The story follows the teenagers’ efforts to bring business back to a struggling folk music pub, and the blossoming love between Jiaming and May, both fans of Singaporean folk music.

1992, Singapore is on the cusp of having the first elected President, and it has just banned chewing gum. There is an air of hope and rejuvenation in the air, where everyone believes that a Singaporean dream is possible. There’s a bunch of young people who are trying to create a Singapore music industry and creating plenty of local works at a crazy pace. This is also the time where music cafes/lounges featuring local talents are sprouting everywhere alongside a new trend called karaoke.

Jiaming is a free spirited lad who has never really taken school seriously. His parents own a music lounge called “Meng Chuan”, and he felt he could always help run the business if he drops out of school. True enough, his ‘O’ level results in high school bombed and he dropped out of school.

Jiaming has a bunch of buddies named Caogen, Haoban and Xiaopang who were able to score well enough to move on to Junior College. But they were caught renting porn magazines by the Principal and had to be suspended for a month.

During this month, the 4 boys took part in a local music competition, had their taste of puppy love, and worked hard to bring business back to “Meng Chuan’s” struggling business. This coming of age tale, see Jiaming and gang learning the harsh realities of pursuing dreams in the real world; and finding out that choosing between what your heart wants and what the society expects from you, is akin to losing your innocence in an adult world.

Through the closure of ‘Meng Chuan’ in the story, the film reflects the eventual demise of the ‘Xinyao’ (Singapore Chinese folk music) movement around the mid-90s. And signifies a losing of innocence in the youth’s struggle to battle the realities of growing up.

THAT GIRL IN PINAFORE 《我的朋友,我的同学,我爱过的一切》is the first Singapore film in 15 years to celebrate the success of ‘Xinyao'( 新谣), the popular 90s Singaporean folk music movement. The film re-introduces this music with contemporary arrangements to a new generation in this charming teenage love story.

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