6.3/10
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2 user 92 critic

A Land Imagined (2018)

Huan tu (original title)
A lonely construction worker from China goes missing at a Singapore land reclamation site, and a sleepless police investigator must put himself in the mind of the migrant to uncover the truth beneath all that sand.

Director:

Siew Hua Yeo

Writer:

Siew Hua Yeo
10 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Peter Yu Peter Yu ... Lok
Xiaoyi Liu Xiaoyi Liu ... Wang
Yue Guo ... Mindy (as Luna Kwok)
Jack Tan ... Jason
Ishtiaque Zico Ishtiaque Zico ... Ajit
Kelvin Ho Kelvin Ho ... George
George Low George Low ... Foreman Lee
Debabrota Basu Debabrota Basu ... Hossein
Andie Chen ... Ming Ming
Khalishan Liang Khalishan Liang ... Tong
Qin Tianshu Qin Tianshu ... Brat
Ottylia Liu Ottylia Liu ... Brat's Girlfriend
Xiao Jing Xiao Jing ... Zhou
Andy Nyo Andy Nyo ... Ah Hao
Joey Heng Joey Heng ... Couple Girl
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Storyline

A lonely construction worker from China goes missing at a Singapore land reclamation site, and a sleepless police investigator must put himself in the mind of the migrant to uncover the truth beneath all that sand.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Mystery

Certificate:

See all certifications »
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Details

Language:

Bengali | English | Mandarin

Release Date:

12 April 2019 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Land Imagined See more »

Filming Locations:

Singapore See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

First Singaporean film to win the Golden Leopard Award at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland. See more »

Quotes

Troll862: I think he wasn't picky. That's what happens when you're lonely.
See more »

Soundtracks

Oh Lover Please Come Back
Performed by Lee Yee
Sound recording by Life Records
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User Reviews

 
A bit too much art gets in the way of the story.
23 April 2019 | by S_SomaSee all my reviews

If you like watching movies that seem to just naturally engender a sweaty, angst-y compulsion amongst reviewers to use words like insouciant, milieu, limns, palimpsest, liminal, peregrinations, and oneiric in a feverish attempt just to DESCRIBE them, then A LAND IMAGINED is just the movie for you; I would show examples of this, but URLs are a giant no-no here on IMDb which I found out the hard way. Ow.

The plot seems simple enough and holds some promise. A Singaporean police detective, Lok, and his partner are investigating the disappearance of a Chinese migrant construction worker who works as part of the massive and never-ending "land reclamation" project in Singapore that's been ongoing since the 60s. This is no small task as countless thousands of migrant construction workers from many different nationalities, living and working in poorly documented and unequivocally exploitive circumstances, make locating any individual one a virtual impossibility. The land reclamation project has been ongoing for around half a century and has literally increased the total landmass of Singapore by slightly more than 20%, just to give you a scale of the project and the number of workers that must be involved.

Structurally, the movie has two primary elements. First is a depiction of Lok and his investigation which opens the movie, and then we switch to a flashback account of the timeline and experiences of the disappeared Chinese migrant construction worker, Wang. When that account comes to a dramatic head, we return to Lok and his investigation and follow that through to the end of the movie.

To be sure, A LAND IMAGINED does have much to recommend it. It does a stellar job of representing the miserable living and working circumstances and exploitation of the migrant construction workers. From a socio-political perspective, this is potential dynamite given the fact that it can't help but be ultra-critical of the political and commercial power structure in Singapore. Singapore is overwhelmingly dominated by the People's Action Party and makes regular use of defamation lawsuits to crush anyone embarrassingly critical of the PAP, its policies and programs. Nobody even pretends that the press is at all "free" in Singapore. You have to give the makers of A LAND IMAGINED serious points just for making the movie at all.

One point that the movie hammers upon repeatedly is the fact that NOBODY really wants to know what happened to Wang. Troublemakers are not appreciated, let sleeping dogs lie and all that. We don't want to irritate the power structure. All of which, of course, left me wondering how did the police actually find out about the disappearance of Wang at all? Who would have reported it? The idea that a couple of police detectives would even be investigating the disappearance of Wang in the first place doesn't jive in any way with anything else we're led to believe about the environment in which the investigation is taking place. Who would have sent out a couple of police detectives to investigate something nobody wants to find out about?

A LAND IMAGINED's execution of its desire to be "neo-noirish" AND surreal in a context of socio-political commentary render it mostly a large, confounding and tedious pill. The acting is good and the cinematography definitely captures a noir sensibility and an excellent representation of the unpleasant life realities of the primary characters, but it does so with so much top loading of stylistic balderdash one spends a lot of time looking for deep meaning that either isn't there or is impossible to sort out. It's just a bunch of stylistic posing. Do we really have to spend THAT much time staring point-blank at some actor's face which is itself staring at something else we can't see while we can't read their mind or the meaning of their blank expression?

And exactly what was the contribution to the movie that we were supposed to glean from watching Lok's wiener boinging around as he runs stark naked on a treadmill? That we have no more control over our lives than a wiener boinging on a treadmill? Or something like that?

If the writer and/or director had merely used their obviously significant skills to create a more comprehensible movie instead of portraying everyone drifting haphazardly and ephemerally from situation to situation it probably would've ended up being a pretty good movie. There's clearly lots of talent here, it's just sad that most of it is being misused to portray abstractions that contribute nothing to the movie but confusion. Certainly Lok's "investigation" was the most vague and noncommittal police investigation I've ever seen in a movie. He spends so much time staring blankly at everything (noirish emoting, I suppose) he didn't have time to do any actual investigating.

I don't know... Perhaps the movie had to be so vague and ephemeral just to get it made in the context of Singaporean political realities. I rather hope so, because at least that would make sense.


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