``Be With Me" is something of a rarity: a film made in Singapore, for one thing, but also a curious, austere mix of minimalist romantic longing and true-life biography. Meditative and often extremely beautiful to look at, the film's many parts don't quite cohere, much as director/co-writer Eric Khoo would like them to.
The first part of the film intertwines three tales of unhappy hearts. A fat, middle-aged security guard (Seet Keng Yu) worships a beautiful young executive (Lynn Poh) from afar, stalking her even after he's fired for falling asleep on the job. An elderly grocery store owner (Chiew Sung Ching, his face a life-map of disappointment) yearns for his ailing wife to return from the hospital. A teenage girl (Ezann Lee) falls for another girl (Samantha Tan) she meets online and is thrown into despair when the latter toys with her emotions and tosses them away.
All three of these characters simply want their beloved to be with them, and Khoo sketches out the gulf between desire and attainment with moody, glacial beauty. There's hardly any dialogue to be heard in ``Be With Me" -- it's an intensely quiet movie because these hearts are talking mostly to themselves.
Subtitles have been popping up throughout the movie, though -- untethered to any voice on the soundtrack, they seem almost like footnotes -- and gradually we become aware that we're reading the memoirs of Theresa Chan , a 64-year-old woman who was deaf at age 12 and blind at age 14.
She's an actual woman, something on the order of Singapore's Helen Keller, and Khoo uses her in ``Be With Me" as an angel of comfort, spreading resilience and hope.
Midway through the film, the narrative is dropped for an extended sequence of Chan going about her quiet life while we read her life story via subtitles: cruel parents, a savior teacher, a journey to distant Massachusetts and the Perkins Institute. We see her type but never hear her voice, since silence is her world. Images of quotidian objects -- beds, shelves, doorways -- dissolve into each other. ``Love does not die even though bodies may perish," Chan writes. ``Love only disappears when you don't understand what it means."
Eventually Khoo returns to his triple-stranded narrative, with Chan's kindly social worker (Lawrence Yong), the store owner's son, serving as a bridge to the others. The plotlines about the teenage girl and the security guard have lost their momentum, though, and if ``Be With Me" means to comment on love's inability to survive in a world of instant text messaging, that notion dies on the vine.
Chan's story is moving nonetheless, and with her unseeing eyes and dark Eeyore voice, she's a presence you don't want to let go of. One leaves ``Be With Me" with the sense of having seen several beautiful things placed in beguiling but random order.
Ty Burr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.