'Rain Town' review: Let the rain (and tears) fall in Taiping

Mother’s mooncakes always taste better after someone sings to them. — Handout

Rain Town
Director: Tunku Mona Riza
Cast: Chew Kin Wah, Susan Lankester, Fabian Loo, Wilson Lee, Pauline Tan

The titular “Rain Town” here is none other than Taiping in Perak, which is well known for its heavy rainfall.

The story of the movie, which opens on Feb 8, revolves around Choo (Chew Kin Wah), his Eurasian wife Aileen (Susan Lankester) and three children – doctor- in-training Isaac (Fabian Loo), the carefree Alex (Wilson Lee), and aspiring baker Ruby (Pauline Tan).

Choo is a former bank clerk and lantern maker who is a bit of a control freak when it comes to his family, believing that he has every right to determine what path his wife and children should take. As a result of Choo’s stubbornness and ego, Isaac is forced to give up his aspirations of being a musician to become a doctor, while Ruby’s planned marriage falls apart along with her dream of opening her own bakery. Meanwhile, Alex is the only one who dares to rebel against his father, though he hasn’t quite has his own life sorted out just yet.

Aileen prepares food with her daughter Ruby. Photo: HandoutAileen prepares food with her daughter Ruby. Photo: Handout

In the centre of all this is the eye of the familial storm, Aileen, whose calm and loving demeanour is the only thing that is keeping this fragile family jigsaw puzzle together. But even she is feeling the strain of doing so, and it is only a matter of time before the pieces start falling like the raindrops upon Taiping.

At its core, the story of Rain Town is simple, but the cast’s strong acting elevates it to something much deeper and meaningful. Director Tunku Mona Riza draws out masterful performances from Lankester and Chew, while the younger members of the family also manage to hold their own, especially during the various conflicts that occur.

Credit also to the director, who allows the story to flow without dwelling too much on the multi-cultural aspects of Taiping and its denizens, but instead, letting them be a natural part of the story.

Choo (Chew) trying to figure out how to fix all the problems he created within his family. Photo: HandoutChoo (Chew) trying to figure out how to fix all the problems he created within his family. Photo: Handout

Rain Town has been touted as “first Chinese language film directed by a Malay woman”. But it is so much more than that. Calling it a “Chinese-language movie” ignores the fact that Rain Town embraces ALL the different languages and dialects that make up the fabric of Malaysian communication.

Yes, Cantonese and Mandarin feature heavily (it is a story about a Malaysian Chinese family after all), but Malay, English, Tamil is also spoken here, all jumbled and mixed up into that fluid “rojak” way we Malaysians communicate with on another across our entire multi-cultural society. This isn’t just a “Chinese-language movie”. It’s a “Malaysian language movie”.

Tunku Mona has called this her “homage to Malaysia’s rich cultural tapestry” and a “call to fellow Malaysians to embrace diversity”, and while Rain Town may not be a typical festive film that one expects to watch during Chinese New Year, it is definitely one that all Malaysians can relate to in one way or another.

7 10


A movie that all Malaysians can relate to

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Rain Town


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