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WFF 2022: ‘Please Hold The Line/请别挂断’ Holds Audiences Captive

Many of us bemoan how long films have become. Truthfully though, a well-made 3 hour film can go by in a flash whereas a 90 minute film can feel like hours and hours on end. Please Hold the Line has a run time of only 19 minutes, but it has the unique feature of feeling both long and short at the same time. So much happens in the short time frame, but it’s so tightly made that it goes by quickly.

Written and directed by Ce Ding Tan, Please Hold The Line follows a young girl, played by Kendra Sow, working at a call centre that scams older individuals into providing their bank account information. It’s a mundane job that doesn’t require any skill, just a need for money. We’re made privy to the fact that she is pregnant and wishes to have an abortion, but doesn’t have the money to do so.

As she tries to get the money together, running into trouble with thugs along the way, her father grows increasingly worried about her behaviour. An ardent purchaser of lottery tickets, he has the desperation of a parent at the end of their rope. Too old to shield her from the terrors of the world, he can only plead with his daughter to tell him what’s wrong so he can try to help.

Tan weaves together an incredibly compelling film that is thrilling and gripping in all the right places with a great amount of heart. Sow does a great job of walking the tightrope between being a young woman not yet equipped to face the harsh world, but old enough to have made significant life choices whose repercussions loom large.

Short films are excellent spaces to see the potential of filmmakers and Please Hold the Line does exactly this for Tan. When the credits began to roll, my only thoughts were: “I could watch another hour of this play out” — probably the highest compliment I can give any film.

The Whistler Film Festival is online until January 2.

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