“When the community divided into two groups, us and them, I never imagined it would escalate to this point.”
Within the sci-fi genre looking at a possible future, an ideal one or a horrible one, authors and filmmakers often tackle issues about our current world or the human condition in general. Singaporean-American director Vivian Ip deals with the aforementioned concepts in her projects by “capturing intimate moments and universal truths with a cinematic edge” according to her profile of her at bafta.org. In her short feature “At the Water’s Edge” she stays true to this description by talking about love, rebellion and human connection at the backdrop of a dark future for our planet.
Jie, also known as Kelly Choo, has been employed by the Kingpin, played by Tay Ping Hui, for a significant amount of time. The Kingpin holds power over the dangerous world in which Jie resides. One day, Jie insists on being released so she can be reunited with her partner, Mei, played by Lynn Chei. They hope to leave the corrupt city behind and begin a new life. Despite the Kingpin’s attempts to persuade her otherwise, Jie remains resolute in her decision. The Kingpin resorts to using force to keep her under his watch, but Jie remains determined to follow through with her plan.
There isn’t much to discuss regarding the themes of the film. Due to its short duration, we are left in the dark about the relationship between the two women – whether they are lovers, sisters, or friends – as well as the bond between Kingpin and Jie. There are only a few hints that suggest Kingpin is more than just his character’s name. This could be why Tay Ping Hui’s performance stands out more, both for his portrayal of the character and his portrayal of how he controls and manipulates others. On the other hand, Kelly Choo effectively portrays a person who yearns to escape from an unfortunate and bleak environment, as described by Kingpin. This is all we can say about her character.
The film “At the Water’s Edge” has much more depth than its simple storyline may imply. Despite the minimal focus on the setting, the use of noir-style cinematography and Josh Wie’s music creates a haunting, urban atmosphere that resembles a surreal nightmare. This seems to draw inspiration from the concept of hell and its seven levels, each representing a specific sin. Although this idea is quite expansive, the stunning visuals alone pique curiosity about this world and its mechanics.
Ultimately, “At the Water’s Edge” presents a thought-provoking portrayal of a dystopian world, but the minimalistic nature of the story fails to fully persuade or captivate.