Movie Review: Cuak (2014 Malaysian film)

Cuak movie banner - malaysia 2014 film

Progressive Malaysian indie film ‘Cuak’ explores questions of love, marriage & religion through cheesy but thought-provoking dialogues

The trailer might not look as appealing as most Hollywood garbage but it definitely should not be labelled as just another local Malaysian production that we’d usually snub by default. As a comedy, Cuak is not as amusing as I had hoped, but it has quite a few moments of brilliance when it’s getting down to the point of the film with a more serious tone.

Released on Valentine’s Day (today), Cuak tells the tale of Adam (played by Ghafir Akbar), an ordinary modern Malay dude who is having “cuak” (second thoughts, cold feet) and has to face some issues prior to his wedding ceremony with Brenda (played by Dawn Cheong), a more educated and less laid back Malaysian Chinese girl who has to convert to a Muslim due to Islamic Law on interfaith marriage. The story consists of 5 segments of different styles, timeline and themes directed by 5 different directors respectively, separated into several sequences and put together non-chronologically (like Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and Christopher Nolan’s Momento) for a better narrative on the couple’s relationship and incidents.

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Out of the 5 segments, my favourite would have to be Sharmaine Othman’s “The Couple” where Adam and Brenda’s minor argument to an intense debate about the bride’s conversion to Muslim (a couple of lines were muted due to censorship too). Instead of directly questioning why a non-Muslim cannot marry a Muslim without changing to the religion, it’s written in a way that the local film censorship board wouldn’t deem too sensitive for general audience, and yet serves the purpose by delivering the point. This deserves a standing ovation in my opinion, just imagine how much further Othman could’ve pushed if she wasn’t restricted by our “freedom of speech” regulations. The other scene that really impressed me was the long stationary-angle single-take shot in Lim Benji’s found-footage style segment where Adam argues with his ex-girlfriend (Ani Juliana Ibrahim) about their relationship and career. The acting performance in these two sequences are perhaps one of the best I’ve ever seen from a local production.

However, the simple and almost slapstick humour of the film failed to crack me up until radio hosts and stand-up comedians Patrick Teoh and Kuah Jen Han made appearance in Manesh Nesaratnam’s segment about Adam’s meeting with his soon-to-be in-laws who are exaggeratedly stereotyped Malaysian Chinese parents. One of the reasons why I find it hard to relate to the characters at most parts was because their behaviour aren’t quite realistic, particularly with the dialogues and flashbacks in Khairil M. Bahar’s “The Bachelor” segment where Adam has his second thoughts on the marriage when hanging out with his close buddies on the night before the wedding ceremony. While it does share interesting perceptions about whether or not to get married, the segment (and perhaps the title of the film as well) is contradicted by Tony Pietra Arjuna’s extremely cheesy and corny noir thriller segment (which features Tony Eusoff as Adam’s psychologically troubled half-brother) because… [A BIT OF SPOILER AHEAD!]

Patrick Teoh & Ghafir Akbar in Cuak movie still meme

… realistically, I doubt any soon-to-be-married couple would still have second thoughts about their marriage if they had recently experienced a defining life and death moment together.

What I would’ve named the film: “Apa Lagi Cuak Mau?”

Censorship in Malaysia: Two to three lines were muted due to “sensitive issues” and “confusion” according to director Khairil M. Bahar during the press conference.

Second opinion: My girlfriend thought the film was pretty sweet and heartwarming in overall.

Verdict: Don’t judge it by its very typical Malay romance comedy-like poster, this genuine Malaysian film totally deserves a chance from local movie-goers. It may not be perfect, nor is it very funny, but it can be very thought-provoking.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Cuak movie poster malaysia 2014Country / Language: Malaysia / English, Malay and a bit of Chinese

Rated: 18
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Running time: (no info, around 2 hours)
Director-writers: Khairil M. Bahar, Manesh Nesaratnam, Lim Benji, Tony Pietra and Shamaine Othman
Cast: Ghafir Akbar, Dawn Cheong, Tony Eusoff, Gavin Yap, Ash Nair, Patrick Teoh, Kuah Jenhan, Corinne Adrienne

Malaysia Release Date: Valentine’s Day 2014
Local Distributor: TGV Pictures
Studio: Garang Indie Pictures

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