By Huang Lijie
The elderly couple pass a packet of condoms between themselves and talk about it within earshot of customers in the convenience store.
The wife, the store’s cashier, is having trouble ringing up the condoms. She calls out to her husband, also her colleague, for help and is embarrassed when he answers her question about what the item is.
There is nothing sexy about the exchange, a scene in the short film Love In A Convenience Store by filmmaker Png Zhen Yu. But it delicately sums up a picture of love in the silver years where sparks between a couple continue to fly because of minor exasperations, tender patience and a willingness to explore a changing world together.
The film is a commission by the National Arts Council’s Silver Arts festival, which celebrates seniors and ageing through the arts.
Png, 27, says he wanted to spotlight how seniors express love, not with throwaway declarations but everyday gestures such as helping their partners embrace the tech disruption. It is this message behind the dramedy that led actor Marcus Chin, 65, to play the role of the elderly husband.
Chin, who has been living apart from his wife in real life, says in Mandarin: “I enjoy my freedom living alone, but it is also a blessing to have a harmonious family life, especially in one’s sunset years.”
Png says the film, especially the role of the female protagonist played by veteran actor Goh Guat Kian, is inspired by his grandmother, a retired canteen operator in her late-70s. Like the onscreen character – a housewife hesitant to explore life outside for fear of not being able to keep up with the new, Png’s grandmother prefers to spend her days at home in front of the television.
He says: “I’ve been trying to encourage my grandmother to do more; retirement shouldn’t be the end of an active life.” He has not been successful so far, although he hopes the message of the film will win her over. But first, he will have to persuade her to step into a cinema to watch it.
Love In A Convenience Store is one of five short films that make up the Singapore Silver Shorts 2018. The last screening of the films is on 30 Sep 2018. Details here.