Saturday, October 15, 2005

Review: Dear Dakanda (Peun Sanit)

  • Directed by Komkrit Treewimol
  • Starring Sunny Suwanmethanon, Sirapat Watanajinda, Maneerat Kam-uan
  • Released theatrically in Thailand on October 6, 2005

For fans of Fan Chan who wondered where Noi Nah's family moved to, the answer is here -- the family, or Noi Nah's dad at least, moved to Bangkok, where the long-haired, mustachioed, deliberative barber, played again by musician Lek Carabao, opened a shop.

It's only fitting that Komkrit Treewimol, the first of the six directors of Fan Chan, a hit Thai film in 2003, would have the barber character around to reprise his bit of artfully cutting the hair, and just when the haircut is finished and the customer is about to get up, he says, "Wait!", and snips a single, errant hair that was sticking up.

The customer in this case is Moo (Sunny Suwanmethanon), a young guy who's about to head out for the southern Thailand island of Koh Pha-ngan. Why he's going there takes pretty much the whole movie to explain, but first he has to break his leg in a mishap on the boat to the island.

This puts Moo in touch with a very pretty nurse (Maneerat Kam-uan) who is immediately smitten by Moo and is very sweet to him.

But Moo has other things on his mind. He asks for some postcards so he can write his friend.

"Friend or a girlfriend?", Nui the nurse asks.

"Just a friend," Moo insists.

Then we flashback to four years before. Moo is an art student at Chiang Mai University in his first day, having to go through the things that freshmen in Thai universities have to go through, like collecting names of other students in your book.

He meets Dakanda (Siraphan Watanajinda), a striking, unique beauty with an outgoing personality.

Moo and Dakanda become close friends -- classmates who critique each others' work, getting drunk on the weekends, and going through all the hazing rituals together.

One night Moo earns his nickname, after Dakanda convinces him and another guy to raid the university's chicken farm for eggs. Moo ends up getting run off by the caretaker, and all the eggs in his pocket are broken -- Broken Eggs is his name now.

The story toggles back and forth between the present, with Moo laying up in bed with a cast, being cared for by Nui and another outrageous comic-relief nurse. Eventually, Nui carts Moo around on the back of her motorcycle, his cast-clad leg sticking out over the side. They spend time at the beach, and Moo is able to earn some money painting portraits of tourists.

But Moo pines for Dakanda, and the story switches back to his university days. Dakanda's parents are quite keen on Moo. Her mom suggests a trick that might ensure Dakanda loves him: while she's sleeping, he should stand over her and concentrate all his thoughts on her while counting. If before he reaches the number 10 she wakes up, she loves him. He tries it one night on a camping trip, but probably she's had too much to drink and has passed out. Or has she?

Next thing Moo knows, he's laying back in his hospital bed and the nurse Nui is counting. It's one of the many funny scenes.

The comedy in this film is best during the first act of the film. It slows up, and by the third act, it's pretty serious as Moo copes with his emotions and you learn how he got into his predicament.

But it's never overboard or maudlin. Subtlety. It's something a lot of films -- especially Thai romantic comedies -- lack. But Komkrit finds a balance that's just about right. It's sweet without being syrupy.

A good first solo effort from the first of the six Fan Chan directors makes me have good hopes for the remaining five directors.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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