Ilo Ilo's performers give wonderfully naturalistic turns, providing the entire film with a heartening authenticity.
Bayani and the impish Koh Jia Ler have a particularly enjoyable chemistry that manifests especially in the scene that sees barrier between them broken; in which they water fight after a shower. On equally fine form are Chen and Yeo as Mr. and Mrs. Lim, both struggling in variously pressurised jobs and keenly aware of their waning financial stability. On top of that, Hwee Leng has to contend with Teresa's encroaching position as surrogate mother to the boy that she herself struggles to connect with. It is actually this element of the story that works the least well, despite both women playing it perfectly. The scenes in which they but heads feel clumsy, rushed and obvious, and this sticks out in a film that feels so otherwise convincing.
Equally, Teresa's trips to the pay phone to call home (the eponymous locale, but it's never clear why) seem only to serve the purpose of pushing her into an additional job. This gives a notional sense of social exploration - immigrants taking unauthorised but necessary second jobs, sex workers in the mall - but it is unresolved, like a thread left hanging. Despite perhaps seeming like the pattern wasn't followed to the letter, the final result is a well crafted vignette of a family entering a difficult period. The lack of narrative thrust may put some off, but when viewed as the story of Teresa and Jiale, Ilo Ilo is an affectionate and poignant - if slight - slice of family life.