- Directed by Bongkot Kongmalai and Viroj Sristsereeamorn
- Starring Julaluck Julanon, Ratha Pho-ngam, Bongkot Kongmalai, Chalad na Songkhla, Mariano Consentino
- Released in Thai cinemas on June 6, 2013; rated 18+
- Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5
Actress "Tak" Bongkot Kongmalai offers a glimpse into her weird mind with her feature directorial debut, Angels (นางฟ้า, Nang Fah), an erotic drama about three dancers in a Pattaya cabaret.
One scene in particular made me wonder whether it had any symbolism about what Tak thinks of her career as an actress and the sexpot roles that get thrown at her.
But Angels is one of those twist-filled movies that's difficult to explain without revealing the twists, though if you know anything about the history of movies you can probably guess what they are.
The story centers on Mint (Julaluk Julanon), and toggles back and forth from her dance-hall days to the present, when she is happily running an upscale floral-arrangement business and sending her teenage son Kao to a pricey international school. Fourteen years before, Mint was working in a Pattaya cabaret with the lead dancer and choreographer Roong (Ratha Pho-ngam) and her friend Fern, a young deaf woman played by Tak herself.
A pet project of Tak's, Angels was made over the past year or so, sometime in between parts one and two of the Jan Dara remake that Tak starred in, along with Ratha. It's been a busy time. Along with writing, co-directing and co-starring in the movie, Tak has also been wooed by and married to one of Thailand's biggest tycoons, Boonchai Bencharongkul. She also put on weight, leading her to finally reveal that she was pregnant.
And in Angels Tak is heavier in some scenes than others. But she keeps on dancing – indeed, several dance numbers pad out the narrative – and Tak makes judicious use of artful lighting, shadows and costuming.
She gets help behind the lens from seasoned TV helmer and assistant director Viroj Sristsereeamorn. In front of the camera, Tak's character Fern is a deaf woman who becomes mentally unwound. Her performance is a call-back to earlier actressy roles she's played, such as the crazy exhibitionist in 2004's Ai-Fak or the blind homeless woman in Wisit Sasanatieng's Sawasdee Bangkok short in 2009.
Tak's Jan Dara co-star Ratha isn't given much to do, except be the strong-willed and bossy leader. She's soon out of the picture as she's whisked away to Germany by her foreigner boyfriend.
So it falls on Julaluk to bear most of the dramatic load as the doting mother of Kao (Mariano Consentino), a schoolboy who has reached that certain age where he's wondering who is father is and why his mother has partnered up with a gay man.
By coincidence, Kao – a Muay Thai fighter who prefers his English nickname "Nine" – has a crush on his classmate Sophie. Her disapproving father is Sharif, a foreigner businessman played with sneering menace by periennial heavy Chalad na Songkhla. Sharif is a shadowy figure from Mint's past – a former customer who paid great stacks of cash to "see" one of the dancers "outside" of the club.
The sordid story of the events that led to Kao's birth is then spilled by Mint to the boy as a flashback, which features ultimately off-putting imagery that you'll likely wish you never saw. The truth is crushing for Kao. His entire life has been built on a lie and he sees no reason to keep hanging around.
The narrative then falls apart quickly and clumsily as Kao goes to live on the beach with his real mother and he is told the truth about his stepmother. There's then a rush to somehow salvage what is ultimately a depressingly tragic tale with an uplifting ending and a positive message.
Angels is not a great film, but I ended up sort of liking it anyway, just for its sheer audaciousness. It's a bold directorial debut by Tak, but now that she's gotten it off her chest and entered a new phase of her life with marriage and motherhood, I wonder if anything else she's compelled to share will be half as interesting.