FEBRUARY 24 ― Normally I plan ahead on the themes or genres of films that I will be writing about, so I will cue my watchlist or make my cinema-going plans accordingly, sometimes even two to three weeks in advance.

A particular event or festive season will make that planning easier because films tend to be released to correspond with certain events or festive seasons as well, like how you’ll find rom-coms mostly being released around Valentine’s Day and crowd-pleasing family comedies being released around the Christmas season, which applies locally as well during the Chinese New Year or Deepavali season.

But sometimes I just stumble upon a theme randomly, like I did this week when I realised, in the middle of watching the wrestling family drama The Iron Claw, that it has very similar themes as a local film I just saw called Rain Town, with both focusing on a small family with a few children, who are ruled by an over controlling father, even if they’re set in totally different milieus.


Having seen Rain Town first, that realisation dawned upon me the further into the film I went with The Iron Claw, and I knew straight away that I needed to write about these two movies together.

Rain Town

With the unique selling point of being the first Chinese language film directed by a Malay woman, this new film from Tunku Mona Riza (who previously did Redha) is again a family drama, set in the rainy town of Taiping.


It focuses on a family with three children, ruled over by Choo (an excellent Chew Kim Wah) as the father, with his loving and supportive Eurasian wife Aileen (an even better Susan Lankester).

Their three kids are eldest son and doctor-in-training Isaac (Fabien Loo), carefree layabout Alex (Wilson Lee) and aspiring baker Ruby (Pauline Tan).

Choo is the kind of Asian dad who likes to think that he has the right to determine the future of his children, hence the music-loving Isaac is forever reminded that he must not only be a doctor, but the best doctor in Taiping.

And since Isaac is now a doctor-in-training, he is of course the pride of the family, which means that his younger siblings have much less pressure on themselves as the spotlight will always be on Isaac.

This doesn’t mean that Ruby is free from problems, because her planned marriage fell apart because of something her dad said to her ex-beau, because of course he expects only the best and most well-planned guy to marry his daughter.

True to its form as an Asian melodrama, there will be quite a few twists and turns in the narrative, albeit ones that any seasoned movie watcher will be able to predict well ahead of time, and it’s really because of the strong performances of the two elder leads that we are willing to go with this story all the way towards its expected end.

Any Asian watching this will have something to connect with, as this is the kind of stuff that hits close to home for many of us.

However, as relatable as everything is here, Rain Town still feels like a basic, but only decently executed family melodrama. It’s not great, but it's not bad either, which is okay, I guess.

A screenshot of a scene from ‘Rain Town’. ― Picture via YouTube
A screenshot of a scene from ‘Rain Town’. ― Picture via YouTube

The Iron Claw

Other than the fact that it focuses on a family of wrestlers and is set in the USA, the other big difference between The Iron Claw and Rain Town is that the children are all boys, and there are four of them.

Another big difference is that the mother here is nowhere near the glue that holds everything together like the one in Rain Town was.

Other than that, you’ve got the same elements here in tyrannical father Fritz Von Erich (a fearsome Holt McCallany) and the oldest son bearing most of the weight of their father’s expectation, Kevin (a heartbreaking Zac Efron).

The siblings are also very loving and supportive of each other, and they’re Kerry (Jeremy Allen White of The Bear fame), David (Harris Dickinson) and youngest child Mike (Stanley Simons), who’d much rather play music than be involved in the family business of wrestling.

Based on the real life Von Erich wrestling dynasty (with a third generation of wrestlers, Kevin’s sons and Kerry’s daughter, also involved in pro wrestling) their story is a deeply tragic one, with some even believing that there is a Von Erich curse happening around them, as there were just too many accidents/incidents occurring around them that some have felt that they’re not mere coincidences.

What these accidents/incidents are, I’ll leave it for you to discover in the film. Suffice to say that the father’s obsession with getting the World Heavyweight Champion belt into the Von Erich family home probably caused a lot more harm than good to the family, leading to one tragic event after another.

It’s a bit of a downer, but it’s a really well executed downer nonetheless, with director Sean Durkin (of Martha Marcy May Marlene fame) even conjuring some Scorsese-ish moments throughout the film, especially during some of the wrestling scenes. This one’s more than worth your time.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.