Ah Boys to Men actor Maxi Lim acts as young man with Autism
Whether you’d admit to watching any instalments of Ah Boys to Men or not, at some point we’ve all felt a certain disdain for Aloysius Jin, played by Maxi Lim, an annoying goody-two-shoes (read: bao toh kia) with antics only a mother could love.
Alongside crowd favourites Sergeant Ong (Tosh Zhang) and stoic dustbin-wrecker Ken Chow (Joshua Tan), Aloysius quickly became as likeable as 7% GST.
It might not surprise you, then, that Lim’s latest role in film is no different. Socially awkward behaviour, check. Massive lack of situational awareness, check. Doesn’t get along with major protagonist? Also check.
This time though, Lim has traded his military fatigues for civilian clothes – he plays a young man seeking the approval of his peers in cell group. The twist: He’s autistic.
Refreshing? You bet.
The film, I Believe (2015), wasn’t shot by Jack Neo or some big name director, presumably because autism awareness is probably less profitable compared to films about National Service. Instead, three LASALLE students were at the helm, assisted in expertise by mentor Wee Li Lin, as part of 20/20 – The Temasek Short Film Project, that sees 20 groups of young filmmakers producing 20 local short films under the tutelage of established local filmmakers.
The result is a 15-minute piece free from the burden of product placement with competent cinematography revolving around a subject that mainstream cinema usually wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole.
What we find heartening about I Believe is that unlike local TV dramas of yesteryear that tend to portray autism stereotypically and simplistically – mostly as objects for pity* – the film takes the effort to be accurate about the condition.
Maxi’s character, Anthony, doesn’t wear high pants with his shirt tucked in and doesn’t have special abilities. Aside from avoiding avoiding eye contact and being disruptive in conversations, he’s pretty much like you and me.
And that’s a milestone because it seeks to change the way Singaporeans view autism.
Maxi may not be the most popular or marketable of Jack Neo’s motley crew of hot-blooded boy stars, but if his latest performance is anything to go by, it’s safe to say that he might be among the most talented. More importantly, it shows that the young actor has made a valiant effort to spread awareness about a condition that Singaporeans need to talk about.
In an age of Instagram fanatics, vague-bookers and know-it-all food bloggers, that’s definitely worth celebrating.
Watch the full film here: www.project20twenty.sg