Fresh out of jail, Siva searches for his ex-wife and daughter who have relocated away from him, looking to start afresh. He squirms under the close watch of his parole officer, and manages to turn their frequent meetings into an outlet for his rage.
Siva’s despondency manifests as slow-burn anger as he wanders between places looking for his family. He has nowhere to live and only a poorly paid and sporadic job marching in funeral processions.
Director K. Rajagopal provides an intimate, over-the-shoulder ride into the desperate, grubby heartland of Singapore. This is a gritty, sometimes savage film, as we follow Siva through the grimier parts of the city, where he seems unable to avoid trouble.
He befriends Chen Chen, an illegal immigrant, but can offer her little more than physical protection. She has a child, who she has left behind with her own parents in China as she turns to prostitution to earn some money.
A man of few words, Siva is short on pleasantries as he goes about his quest. His motorised pushbike adds a further air of despondency as he (almost comically) pedals around the city.
A Yellow Bird presents a view of Singapore far from the glossy façades of Orchard Road or the five-star hotels synonymous with the tiny nation’s lure as a tourist destination, presenting a visceral picture of desperation and stifling humidity.
The yellow bird of the title might suggest a film with a sunny disposition, but Rajagopal’s film retains a tense and claustrophobic tone right up until its final, ultimately heartbreaking scenes.
A Yellow Bird will screen again at 10.45am tomorrow (September 26) at the Mercury Cinema. For more OzAsia Festival film reviews and other festival coverage, click here.