Thursday, February 26, 2009

Review: Before Valentine


  • Directed by Songsak Mongkolthong, Pornchai Hongrattanaporn, Seree Phongnithi
  • Starring Tanachut Tunlayachat, Klaokaew Sinteppadon, Thanakrit Panichwid, Diana Chungjingtanakarn, Jaturong Mokjok, Warapun Nguitragool Saptanaudom, Prem Busarakamwong, Sita Thanunchotikan
  • Released in Thai cinemas on February 5, 2009 (sneak previews from January 29, 2009)
  • Rating: 3/5

Three couples in different stages of life -- teenage years, 30s and 40s -- try to work out the kinks in their relationships on the day before Valentine's Day.

Three directors handle the intertwining segments of Before Valentine (ก่อนรัก...หมุนรอบตัวเรา, Konrak Mun Rob Tua Rao), an ensemble romance from Five Star Production.

Songsak Mongkolthong directs the teenage love story of 14-year-old schoolkids Joke (Boonchu 9's Tanachut Tunlayachat) and Jib (Klaokaew Sinteppadon). The awkward boy Joke can't seem to find a way to tell the neighbor girl Jib that he loves her, possibly because he's not even sure what love is.

Pornchai Hongrattanaporn takes the 30-year-old courting lovers Sutee ("Wan" Thanakrit Panichwid) and Chidchanok (Diana Chungjingtanakarn). Sutee is finally ready to ask Chidchanok to marry him, while she wants to break up.

And Seree Phongnithi focuses on the 40-year-old bickering married couple of Hia (Jaturong Mokjok, credited as Jaturaong Plaboon) and Jae (Warapun Nguitragool Saptanaudom), who run a flower shop.


The story with the most emotional resonance and comedy is that of the married couple, which has a younger fourth couple of Jack (Prem Busarakamwong) and Mam (Sita Thanunchotikan) to bounce off of. Here are the usual tropes of romantic comedy, of secrets and planned surprises breeding misunderstandings and jealousy, leading to Mam downing a bottle of expensive whisky and ending up in bed with Hia, and then Jack punching Hia, laying the older man out on the floor.

The 30-somethings, meanwhile, break up over lunch. They utter their words, "I want to marry you" and "I want to break up" at the same time. They go their separate ways, but somewhat confusingly at first, they continue to talk to one another in their own minds. Chidchanok, with a lopsided short haircut, imagines her on-again, off-again boyfriend in various guises. And Wan is pretty funny as he appears as a police officer, and later as a bathroom attendant, comforting her and questioning her decision. Sutee, whose version of Chidchanok still has long hair, tortures himself about whether he's ready for commitment.

The stylish flights of fancy of director Pornchai, aka Mr. Pink, are somewhat in evidence, from the clever opening title sequence in which the credits appear on actual items in the floral shop -- on ribbons, the sign on the window, on items in the cooler, on a greeting card, etc. -- to the super-saturated colors and herky jerky humor. Though he's just credited with directing the 30-year-old couple, it appears he had an influence on the entire proceedings.


Highlights include a dance routine by the teenyboppers and a war of the roses between the older couple.

But it's nowhere near as crazy as the drum battle of Mr. Pink's Bangkok Loco.

The comedy of Before Valentine is rather uneven and fitful. Emotionally, it failed to make a real connection for me, except for moments in the story arc of the older couple, who shared probably the best chemistry.

There is a connection between the three couples, but it isn't made evident until the very end, though there are clues throughout -- roses being a common theme, and goldfish.


Related posts:

(Thanks to Todd Brown at TwitchFilm.net for shaming me into writing this belated review)

2 comments:

  1. May I corrected that Pornchai directed in Chitchanok&Sutee couple, and Songsak directed in Jib&Joke one.

    I think this one should use only one director, due to the end and the connection between three couples (which have been added from the 'original' screenplay, separated couple like in Hormones.)

    By the way, the stylish things in Before Valentine looks disgusting uncomfortable. Are they inspired by Kiss and Dream in 4 Romances? (just a curious)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Nanoguy. I've made that correction. I thought I had the sequences and their directors correct from the end credits, but somehow I got them switched in my head by the time I got home to write this thing.

    Pornchai directing the middle couple makes more sense -- it has more of his style than the other stories, though I still think he had an influence on the entire film.

    I think the saturated color scheme is just the style of Mr. Pink. I wasn't bothered by it.

    It's hard to say which company came up with the omnibus-style romance first. The idea for omnibus films in Thailand has been around for awhile, with Nonzee Nimibutr doing the pan-Asian horror in Three and then Five Star doing Black Night a few years ago. Then there was the all-Thai 4Bia from GTH last year.

    Of the recent crop of multi-segmented romance films, GTH's Hormones was first out of the box, but it had just one director. It does appear that Sahamongkol and Five Star are following Hormones and 4Bia with their 4 Romances and then Before Valentine projects that came out afterward.

    I appreciated in the end that Before Valentine found a way to link the three couples. I'm not sure it was necessary or really made sense though.

    ReplyDelete

Please, no questions about where to download movies or subtitle files.

Please read the FAQ about Thai films on DVD before asking about where to find a Thai movie on DVD with English subtitles.

Make your comments pertinent to the post you are commenting on. For off-topic comments, general observations or news tips, consider sending an e-mail to me at wisekwai [ a t ] g m a i l [d o t ] c o m.

All comments are moderated.