The primal appeal of Barbarian Invasion lies in its steadfast focus on a question that humans ask over and over again: Who am I?
It’s a nod to the unending search for a true self in a world where one lives multiple personas as a matter of necessity. The full-length feature by Malaysian filmmaker Chui Mui Tan also acclaims humans’ boundless capacity to adapt, evolve, and find happiness.
In one scene, a monk asks Lee Yoon Moon, a washed-up and retired actor played by Tan in the movie she also wrote and directed, “Do you know where you’re going?”
It speaks to the numerous journeys everyone takes in their lifetime, no matter where these eventually lead.
Many of the memorable scenes in Barbarian Invasion have Moon and Roger Woo (Pete Teo) negotiating through the latter’s plan to cast her in a comeback vehicle as the lead in a Southeast Asian version of Matt Damon’s Bourne Identity.
One exchange reveals perhaps one of the things that matter the most, in the end.
“Do you still believe in love?” Moon asks. Woo replies, “I prefer friendship.”