Thursday, March 5, 2009

Review: Best of Times

  • Directed by Yongyooth Thongkongtoon
  • Starring Arak Amornsupasiri, Yarinda Bunnag, Krissana Setthatumrong, Sunsanee Wattananukul
  • Released in Thai cinemas on March 5, 2009
  • Rating: 3/5

In a departure from the youth-oriented romances put out by the GTH studio, Yongyooth Thongkongtoon offers his most mature film yet with the romantic drama Best of Times. (Thai title: Kwaam Jam San Dtae Rak Chan Yaao, ความจำสั้น แต่รักฉันยาว, literally "[my] memory [is] short, but my love [is] long" -- thanks to Thai 101. The English title has also been stated as Best in Time.) The veteran director of such comedies as Iron Ladies and M.A.I.D. has put together a lucid yet dreamy rumination on the fleeting passage of time and the connections we make in our all-too-brief moments on this planet.

The ensemble romance brings together two couples, young and old. The younger ones are Kreng (Arak Amornsupasiri), a lovelorn veterinarian who thinks he still has a chance with his high-school crush, Fai (Yarinda Bunnag), while the older couple is Sompit, a widow who has fallen in love with Jamrus, a silver-haired gent who she's met in her seniors computing class.

A drunken-driving arrest brings the couples together. Kreng is carousing at a gentleman's club with his long-time buddy, the womanizing Ohm (James Alexander Mackie). Driving home from their night of boozing, they are caught at a police checkpoint and sent to jail after they fail the breathalyzer test. It's none other than Fah -- Ohm's ex-wife and the girl Kreng had a crush on in high school -- who comes to bail the boys out.

Then, while driving home from jail, a stray dog is hit by another car, and the do-gooder animal-welfare activist Fai stops to rescue the canine. The dog -- possibly a mix of Golden Labrador and Thai soi dog -- is taken to Kreng's vet clinic, where its broken leg is patched up. Later, the dog, who Fai names Saphanloi (meaning pedestrian bridge, after where he was found), acquires a set of black eyebrows from a mischievous boy wielding a permanent marker. The weirdly expressive pooch then becomes the movie's comic relief, along with the usual parade of GTH stars making cameos.

Kreng, meanwhile, is sentenced to community service for his drunken-driving offense, and he takes over as volunteer teacher of a class that instructs senior citizens how to use the Internet. This is where Kreng meets the pixieish older lady Sompit and the smooth-talking Jamrus.

Fai is always around because she's trying to find Saphanloi's owner, and she's listed Kreng's office phone number on fliers she's posted around town. Her presence is a painful memory for Kreng, who when he was still a schoolboy recorded a love song for Fai and slipped her the CD one day after admonishing her not to feed chicken bones to the street dogs. She doesn't remember Kreng at all, and has not gotten over her love for the philandering Ohm.

Jamrus and Sompit are a happier couple, but their relationship seems doomed because Sompit's son disapproves of his mother's new mate, and he wants to take her with him to live in the U.S. Chatting with Jamrus on MSN, Sompit conspires to escape to Jamrus' farm in the southern province of Chumphon, and they rope Kreng into lying to Sompit's son that she's on a class trip.

The kicker in the older folks' relationship is that Jamrus seems to be losing his memory, which parallels Fai's forgetting of her long-ago interaction with Kreng.

Eventually, Kreng, Fai and their dog with eyebrows must make the long drive south (in their Toyota pickup) to Jamrus' picturesque plantation to intervene on behalf of Sompit's son, and they are drawn into helping the Alzheimer's-suffering Jamrus as well.

It's all very touching and poignant, beautifully filmed and sumptuously scored -- the strings swell at all the predictable moments, just to cue the audience that something significant is happening.

There are problems with the chemistry between Kreng and Fai -- it's obvious that the earthy, free-spirited Fai doesn't dig the awkward, uptight and moody Kreng and she never will. They never seem to share a happy moment. She's too busy still mooning over Ohm and fretting over the stuff he left behind, like his collection of Dragonball comics, minus volume 18.

For his portrayal of the bespectacled Kreng, actor and rock star Arak Amornsupasiri has pinned back his long hair and tucked it up underneath a top-heavy wig of a shorter hairstyle. I got distracted at one point, thinking the guitarists' longer locks were peaking out at the back.

Less-patient viewers will start checking their watches and cellphones sometime after that cool and funny scene at the black-light bowling alley. And they'll miss the many metaphors -- of goldfish in a bowl and droplets of water from Fai's wet hair falling on Kreng's cheeks. And there must be more hidden meanings sprouting from the hardy rose apple tree on Jamrus' farm.

See also:

1 comment:

  1. BTW, it could also be interpreted "(his/her) memory is short, but (he/she) loves me long." I don't care for that rendering because it's too ripe for double entendre. Sounds like that (oh so classic) line from Full Metal Jacket, "me love you long time..."


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