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Positive reviews for Singapore’s Apprentice at Cannes Film Fest

SINGAPORE — The verdict is in: Singaporean film-maker Boo Junfeng’s Apprentice has gotten mostly positive feedback from film critics at the Cannes Film Festival, having been described as “thematically complex” and “ambitious” in reviews.

Positive reviews for Singapore’s Apprentice at Cannes Film Fest

Apprentice director Boo Junfeng (second from left) with (from left) actors Wan Hanafi Su, Mastura Ahmad and Fir Rahman. Photo taken from Cannes Film Festival’s official Facebook page.

SINGAPORE — The verdict is in: Singaporean film-maker Boo Junfeng’s Apprentice has gotten mostly positive feedback from film critics at the Cannes Film Festival, having been described as “thematically complex” and “ambitious” in reviews.

The movie, which tells the relationship between a young correctional officer and the chief executioner of a prison, premiered at the festival’s more progressive Un Certain Regard section on Monday.

It is one of two Singapore films at the annual event this year, the other being K Rajagopal’s A Yellow Bird, which premieres tomorrow (May 18) at the International Critics’ Week.

The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a thumbs-up saying it “passes with flying colours”.

Its review highlighted Boo’s “directorial flair” and the movie’s “thematic complexity”. “This is not your run-of-the-mill penal drama or anti-capital punishment pamphlet (and it should) should help further consolidate Boo’s own reputation as one of the region’s names to watch,” it said.

“One of Apprentice’s strongest selling points is how, in a very compact yet pleasingly dense way, it takes viewers into both the world of the executioners and the executed criminals’ family members who remain behind, two often almost ignored categories in films touching on capital punishment. It remains to be seen how the rather strict authorities in Singapore will react to a feature that explores and questions such issues. But there’s no denying that the country has another formidable filmmaking talent in Boo Junfeng.” The review also cited actor Fir Rahman’s turn as the correctional officer Aiman as “impressive”.

Screen Daily described Apprentice as “tightly focused and ambitious in its multiple themes” and that its pacing “makes for consistently compelling viewing”.

“There’s a pleasing undertow of culpability humming through every frame of Apprentice,” it mentioned elsewhere in the review.

Variety’s chief international film critic Peter Debruge described the film as “earnest yet only intermittently engaging”.

“There’s a certain undeniable perversity to being offered such intimate access to Death Row, and both Boo and Aiman show enormous compassion for the prisoners who find themselves there,” he also wrote.

UK entertainment and lifestyle website The Upcoming found the movie’s “interpersonal dynamics … intriguing” but had issues with its narrative.

“Consistently serious and quite ruthless on the viewer, never loosening its graveness, Apprentice fails to have an impact as strong as it seems to go for… Sadly for its critical subject, Apprentice doesn’t stir up much conversation,” it summed up its lacklustre review.

UK movie blog One Room With A View said the “sparse and morbid… Apprentice is not the easiest watch, but the questions it raises about morality and mortality make it a gut-wrenching polemic about capital punishment.” It adds: “You’d be hard-pressed to call it enjoyable, but Apprentice grips and repulses in equal measure as it intriguingly marks the difference between Aiman’s internal and external motivations for his actions.”

Apprentice opens in Singapore on June 30.

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