Beauty queen turned actress Serene Lim is set to dazzle the audience with her small, but impactful, role in 'The Garden of the Evening Mists', the award-winning movie which be released in Malaysia on 16 January.
'The Garden of Evening Mists' has already been released internationally, and needless to say, won the hearts of critics and movie-goers alike.
It is an adaptation of the novel of the same title by award-winning author Tan Twan Eng, and boasts an international cast and crew from eight countries.
Small role, but massive homework
Lim plays Yun Hung - sister of the main character, Yun Ling - who dreams of building a Japanese garden while being held in captivity in a Japanese concentration camp during their occupation of Malaya.
"This character - although I don't have a lot of scenes - is a very important character. Because of Yun Hung, Yun Ling will meet the gardener and that contributes to the whole story," Lim told Rojak Daily.
Despite the small role, Lim shared that she had to do a lot of homework to play Yun Hung, as the movie itself is set during and after the Japanese Occupation.
As a result, the character's interests were quite foreign to Lim.
"Of course, I wasn't born in that era. I had to watch a lot of documenteries about comfort women, the war and I even picked up drawing, water colour painting, because I wanted to feel how Yun Hung felt.
"She's really good at drawing, which is something I'm not really good at, and I read a lot about Japanese garden as well because in that movie, a lot of times, I had to describe the garden to my sister," Lim said.
She added that in order to have the confidence to play the character, she needed all the information on Yun Hung she could get and really understand what makes her tick.
This is where the book came in.
"There was a slight difference but I got to learn more details about Yun Hong from the book. For example, in the script, they don't explain that she's a good painter but it's mentioned in the book," she said, explaining that the book gave her a deeper understanding of the character.
Working with an all-star cast
Speaking about the main character, Yun Ling (played by Lee Sinje), Lim said that it was very easy to work with the actress.
"For me to believe that we were really sisters, I didn't have to do much work. During the scenes, Sinje is very good at leading.
"My first scene with her, I was pretty nervous because she's a very famous actress. During the scene, I was very nervous and I think she could feel it so she held my hand. It made me feel very safe and she brought me into the scene," Lim said.
Lim agreed to take up the role despite the heavy topic and emotional scenes because she saw it as a challenge.
"I am from the peagents. I don't have much experience when it comes to acting. I think this is a great opportunity to try something new.
"To work in a production like this...with teams from so many different countries, I'm very lucky and honoured to be a part of it," she said.
Oh, in case we forgot to tell you, big names from several countries are involved in the movie, including Lee Sinje ('The Eye'), Taiwanese actress Sylvia Chang ('Love Tomorrow') , Japanese actor Hiroshi Abe ('After The Storm'), British actors John Hannah ('The Mummy'), David Oakes ('Victoria'), Taiwanese director Tom Lin Shu-yu and Scottish screenwriter Richard Smith, among others.
The movie is presented by Astro Shaw and HBO Asia, with support from the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS), in association with CJ Entertainment.
Lim said that the movie is so good that she would have asked her friends to watch it even if she's not a part of it.
"I think this kind of good movie in Malaysia is pretty rare, to be honest. It's quite international, it's got a lot of great actresses and actors, and also the team, the plot and the screenplay as well are so well done,
"I just think that it's a beautiful story," she said.
'The Garden of Evening Mists' will be released in cinemas nationwide on 16 January.
We got to watch the movie earlier too, and trust us when we say that Lim is not exaggerating about how good the movie is.