IFFR Review: Barbarian Invasion

mother and son

Acting has to be the strangest profession. You can spend years of your life pretending to be someone else, to the degree that the general public will assume you are that character in real life. It’s not altogether surprising when this confusion brushes off onto the actors themselves. Obviously, they lead full and active lives outside of the spotlight, that frequently lack the certainty that a script does. A woman has an identity crisis in Barbarian Invasion.

Since retiring, internationally recognised and critically acclaimed actress Moon Lee (Chui Mui Tan) has become a divorcee and full-time mother. In the process, her personality has become absorbed by her new duties as a single mother. Friend and long-term collaborator Roger Woo (Pete Teo) tempts her back to the screen with a new project. This time she’s going to play against type. As a female assassin in an action film.

Barbarian Invasion is a thoughtful and multi-layered drama about a woman trying to wrestle control of her life back and rediscover her selfhood. It works thanks to a full-blooded performance from writer/director Tan, through the intensive training scenes to the constant demands of her ‘son’. She winds the story into a deliciously meta universe. Barbarian Invasion is a film which is well worth unpeeling.

Barbarian Invasion screened at International Film Festival Rotterdam.

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