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A survivor of a brutal Japanese internment camp, Teoh Yun Ling has been working with the Malaysian authorities punish the Japanese war criminals for several years. She despises the Japanese for killing her younger sister, but to pay tribute to her soul she travels to the highlands to visit the renowned gardener Nakamura Aritomo. Aritomo refuses to work for Yun Ling but instead takes her in as an apprentice so that she can build her own garden. Residing in the tea room, Yun Ling begins working at The Garden of Evening Mists and learns to design a garden. Yet outside of the Malaysian jungle, another war is waging in Malaysia in a continued state of emergency. Malay nationalists are fighting the British for independence, while communist guerillas are brutally killing farmers, miners, and their families in every way they can to gain control over the regions.
This is a story of Yun Ling (played beautifully and seamlessly by both Sylvia Chang and Angelica Lee) who through series of flashback and present day scenes, tells of her experiences under the occupation of the Japanese during the second world war and apprenticeship under the former royal gardener of Japan, Aritomo (absolutely amazing Hiroshi Abe), after the war.
The background to the movie is the glorious Cameron Highlands in the state of Pahang in Malaysia , the essence and beauty of it captured beautifully by the cinematographer, Kartik Vijay. The multicultural cast, consisting of mainly Malaysian, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and British actors, were just sublime and amazing under the direction of Tom Lin. Tom managed to capture the spirit and the beauty of the book of the same title by award winning Penang author , Tan Twan Eng.
I had the absolute honour of being invited to the gala viewing in Penang (thanks to GL Ooi and Penang Monthly!). From the opening scene I was amazed that Tom Lin managed to capture the lives, hopes and fears of the people of Malaysia during and after the war. The multilingual dialogue truly exemplifies the multicultural melting pot of Malaysia. The philosophy of perfection in the creation of the garden just drives home the dedication involved in bringing the original source to life. When the end credits rolled, I was amazed to find out that the crews were mostly Asians...
For me this is the truly Asian (Malaysian) movie and will deserve all the accolades that will be bestowed upon the cast, crew and the author of this movie. This is a movie that I will watch again and again and will never be tired of!
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