Starring: Yeo Yann Yann, Julian Hee, Marcus Chin, Catherine Sng, Alaric Tay, Oon Shu An
Runtime: 86 minutes
Language: English, Mandarin & Cantonese
4 ½ ****
A delightfully eclectic cast of Singaporean stars outshine in this hilarious three-part comedy about sex and condoms.
In a country where your deepest desires and sexual activity is publically regulated; is it surprising that it spawned such a gaudy, hilariously upbeat, provocative film such as Rubbers? When talk of the bedroom is so private, it’s practically a surprise that an omnibus comedy of 3 detached narratives based around sex and condoms is not only so popular, but also bursting with innovation and potty humour.
Director Han Yew Kwang partially funded the feature upon Indiegogo; and it’s this niche ‘indie cinema’ experimentation that makes Rubbers so attractive, whilst remaining a fascinating window into the world of conservative Singaporean cinema. It’s very easy to imagine young people in the country flocking to watch the film with its quirky vulgar charm, out of a contrived notion of rebellion towards the establishment and strict governmental law. The film itself is focused around the subject of condoms; specifically about how they are used to save a collapsing marriage between two older citizens, to punish a sordidly selfish (and self stylised) playboy, and to humorously seduce Thor the plumber in an anthropomorphic fashion.
Adam (Alaric Tay) is a crud womanizer who trades his girlfriend for porn when he refuses to use protection “No feeling, no way!”, however when his favourite ’wank-icon’ (Oon Shu An) climbs from the tv and finds a condom unable to attach from his gentleman parts due to selfishness, his day takes a dramatically slapstick turn for the worse. In another part is Bao Ling (Yeo Yann Yann) who is a self stylised condom critic. When one of her poorly rated condoms comes to life in a human style, she sets out on a mission to seduce a plumber, though her laughable advances fail abysmally and Thor (Julian Hee) is left dripping in the shower. Finally there is the retiree couple of Hua (Catherine Sng) and long-term husband Niu (Marcus Chin), however all isn’t perfect as Hua is considering a divorce due to her hubby’s philandering ways with local prostitutes. The addition of a vibrator from a door-to-door sex-toy salesman, and a boatload of condoms, only escalates into side-splitting humour with hints of timeless nostalgia for innocence lost.
Han’s exploration into the subject of hidden lives with elements of sexual activity is an unflinching selfless display of mirthful vulgarity, topping the heights of his previous 2012 film When Hainan Meets Teochew. The feature displays a human-sized talking condom; an A/V star getting her lips stuck (literally) around her partner’s gentleman parts, and a duo of elderly Singaporeans abusing the regular function of condoms and dildos. The heavily regulated and constrained city-state of Singapore is displayed as a free kingdom of open sexual depravity throughout the trilogy, with people skipping down streets waving balloons of condoms, or flaunting their genitals to the local police.
The narrative never dips and when a scene begins to slow, we are suddenly thrown into the continuing strand of another narrative, with the three stories effortlessly interweaving together to create a dizzying blur of condoms, humour and boundary-pushing in the space of 86 minutes. Rubbers itself is a film unashamed of it’s own content, director Han knows exactly what it is and so you never find Rubbers taking itself too seriously or sticking to traditional genre conventions. Satire is lavished throughout, with small touches included in scenes (such as sordid fridge magnets) furthering the sharp, poignant language that is as quick-fire as the sex portrayed on screen. This is all accented by an electro-opera soundtrack escalating to a crescendo in time with the plot; and unrestrained punchy editing that dips between the beats of scenes,
creating a sensation of constant flowing movement between the scenes which leaves you as flustered and sweaty as the characters on screen.
Rubbers is a delightful culturally-subversive comedic romp through the tribulations in the current regulated Singaporean cinema scene. You leave with the impression that Han Yew Kuang’s film never cared for rules, whilst appealing to a younger audience detached from the current law in the city-state. Overall it’s a lovely film that never gives up on sex or humour, pushing every element of the filmmaking process for a payoff that explodes joyously over the audience.