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SOLITUDE BY OMAN DHAS / REVIEWED BY ADVA REICHMAN

Directed by Oman Dhas / Reviewed by Adva Reichman

A little over a year ago, the world we knew changed, and with it our lives. We found ourselves in unfamiliar territory, trying to keep it together and making sure we’re all safe.

Being one of the best methods to discuss life and raise awareness, art stepped in and tried to convey the turmoil we all faced. Welcome to solitude.

In the film, Maggie comes back home, but first has to quarantine in a hotel room for 14 days due to Covid19 regulations. With nothing but time on her hands, Maggie finally faces her past, phobias and boredom. This imposed solitude forces her to reflectand try to make amends.

The quarantine method has been shared worldwide, and the difficulty it carries impacted millions. Thankfully, Maggie doesn’t have to deal with the disease itself, but the mental struggle this new reality imposes is not a walk in the park either. Thetalented Karen Tan Bee Lin, who plays Maggie, brings that fancy yet dark hotel room to life.

The writer,director, Oman Dhas, skillfully take us into her world, inner thoughts and pieces of madness. The cinematography, done by Danny Goh, is clean and exact, the framing is carefully planned and the attention to details is impressive. Pretty remarkable considering this film was shot on an iPhone. The film’s tone is a mix of drama and thriller, and consists of witty writing and actingthat comfortably sways from peculiar and dark to humorous.

We see the passage of time, the never-ending days, and the strain it causes.We watch one actress in one room, and through her feel the walls closing in. A smart decision that helped create that claustrophobic impression was shooting 4×3.

According to Dhas,the film touches on how we live our lives from moment to moment and miss smaller details that ruin relationships. “Only when we are forced to slow down, we might be able to reflect and correct our mistakes. Mere want for self-improvement often doesn’t translate to the actuality of that desire. Without the experience of pain, one struggles to go through self-realization”, he explains. In this short, Dhasexploresthe change that occurs when one is at their most vulnerable stage and their willingness to confront the painful past.

Dhas wrote the film during the Covid lockdown in Singapore. His solitude found comfort and refuge in films. So, he incorporated that intoMaggie’s character and planted specific scenes, from the films she watches during her quarantine, that touch on her own issues.

Oman Dhasin an experienced filmmaker and it shows. He had developed, produced and directed a wide range of TV shows such as Asia’s Underworld which garnered him Best Director title at the Asian Television Award in 2013. Among others, Oman’s work includes The Straits Born, a historical doc for Nat Geo Channel and a recent fiction work, Haunt Me, a supernatural drama for VOD platform HOOQ and the short film The Fish Soup which won Sony Asia Pacific Video Contest in 2019.

Solitude is very much a film we all had to live, switchblade painful moments many had to endure in the past year. Yet this film won’t bring you down, but rather it will makes you think, want to correct and through that lift you up. The film ends with a narration saying Covid 19 might be around for a very long time, and although I must hope that is not the case, at the very least, we can use that time to stop, look inside of us and see how we can heal ourselves and those around us. 

The film is produced by Sreyashi Sen, Founder and Managing Director of DARPAN GLOBAL, a Singapore homegrown brand which produces, distributes and curates content across platforms. Sreya says producing during COVID-19  and across borders has been a very different experience. The film from its script stage, when Oman presented it to me, appealed in various ways through a personal space as a divorced Asian single woman. The way the script addressed notions of fear, solitude and grappling with inner demons, speak not just for a woman but for the times we in across genders and lives lived.

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