Meet Ah Bee (Thomas Pang): an office worker who always puts on a smile for others. For his thirtieth birthday, his doting mother (Guat Kian Goh) gifts him membership to Tiong Bahru Social Club, a new kampong (village)-style planned community that algorithmically maximizes the happiness of its residents through an all-seeing artificial intelligence. When Ah Bee arrives, he also signs up to become a “happiness agent” for seniors in Tiong Bahru’s assisted living facilities, and even meets a sweetheart on the job. Is this where he will finally find fulfillment?
Drenched in color and faux nostalgia like a Singaporean Wes Anderson dystopia, TIONG BAHRU SOCIAL CLUB visualizes a world that has commodified and commercialized every form of leisure and self-care. It mines many of the technologies we use to manage our connected lives-digital wellness apps, wearables, smart home assistants, curated subscription services and social media feeds-as a source of deadpan comedy. Ah Bee soon discovers that despite the best efforts of microchips and men, happiness is never really guaranteed.