Love story of a man and his sick mum

Charlie Lim in the video for his single, Light Breaks In.
Charlie Lim in the video for his single, Light Breaks In.PHOTO: UNIVERSAL MUSIC SINGAPORE

Singer-songwriter Charlie Lim's music video is loosely based on his father and his late mentally ill grandmother

Singapore singer-songwriter Charlie Lim's new music video for the single, Light Breaks In, broaches a subject that hits close to home for him.

It is based on the relationship between his father, and his late grandmother who suffered from mental illness.

"Growing up was a rough time for my dad as he had to raise his younger siblings while taking care of my grandma, whose condition was worsening while he was still a teenager," says Lim, 29.

"I'm always in awe of how resilient and patient he is."

The song is taken off his critically acclaimed album Time/Space, a work that topped the iTunes Singapore music chart when it was released in 2015.

For the video, Lim worked with budding film-makers Jonathan Choo and Julie Heather Liew, whose film Han won DBS Best Picture and Best Direction at the National Youth Film Awards last year, a short film competition organised by youth community space *Scape.

Choo, 28, and Liew, 26, are fans of Lim's music and jumped at the chance to work with him.

Lim says: "After listening to the song, Jonathan had a very strong image of a sick mother and child. He wanted the narrative to revolve around the theme of a dysfunctional yet unconditional love. It was a bit of a freak coincidence, but I quickly saw the parallels between Jon's initial ideas and the relationship between my father and my late grandmother, and we further developed the story from there."

Liew says that they took care to make a music video that reflected how complicated, but poignant, it was to love someone who was not easy to take care of.

"We agreed that the last thing we needed was to make it another cheesy romantic love story and portraying complex parent-and-child relationships was a better love story.

A line in the song - "Tell me your despair and I'll show you mine" - struck a chord with the film-makers.

Liew adds: "It can be incredibly isolating to suffer in silence, but the tenderness of the song and the narrative remind us that we don't have to."

Choo added that Lim was open to their ideas and together, they spent a few months going back and forth on the concepts for the music video.

"Whenever we came up with new ideas, we'd discuss it with him. He had a good instinct of what would fit the song and we just kept on sculpting the ideas together based on each new draft of the script."

Shot in an abandoned house, the film-makers spent one week dressing up the set, which included original artworks created by Liew, two days to film the scenes and three weeks on post-production.

Lim showed an early cut to his father, who singled out subtle details such as a scene that had two birds coincidentally fly past the window at the end of the video.

He said: "He thought it was quite moving and gave some suggestions to improve the story."

Lim, who recently completed a seven-city tour to places such as Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea, plans to release an EP of new songs later this year, but is keeping mum about the musical direction that he is taking.

"I can't say exactly what it'll be like, but I'm just trying to push myself and try different things.

•View Charlie Lim's Light Breaks In music video at http://bit.ly/2o5xFf5

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2017, with the headline 'Love story of a man and his sick mum'. Print Edition | Subscribe