Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review: Home

  • Directed by Chookiat Sakveerakul
  • Starring Juthawut Wattanakampon, Kittisak Pathomburana, Penpak Sirikul, Siraphan Wattanajinda, Ruangsak Loychoosak
  • Released in Thai cinemas on April 19, 2012 (sneak previews from April 12-16); rated 18+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

Since 2007's Love of Siam, Chookiat Sakveerakul has mainly contributed to short-film projects such as 4 Romances, Lud 4 Lud and Sawasdee Bangkok, and he's still in short-film mode of sorts as he directs his first feature film in five years, Home (Home ความรัก ความสุข ความทรงจำ, Home Khwam Rak Khwam Sook Khwam Songjam). Dedicated to his recently departed father, it's a heartfelt and sentimental collection of three stories, all set in his hometown of Chiang Mai, which ponders endings and beginnings.

The first story is set at night under the luminous glow of a Catholic high school, where a soon-to-graduate senior (Juthawut Wattanakampon) has set up his camera and is taking photos of the empty campus. He encounters an underclassmen acquaintence (Kittisak Pathomburana). He's a member of the basketball team who's just hanging out. The pair of young men then spend the rest of the evening talking. Their humorous and light-hearted banter of course turns to girls and relationships and the photographer is pestered into revealing that he has a crush on someone and that it's not a girl. His new jock buddy expresses shock but not necessarily disapproval, though later he swears he doesn't go with gays. A friendship has been formed, and maybe more, but morning brings an awkward meeting with another guy and even more awkward and strained goodbye.

The middle section stars Penpak Sirikul, who solidly anchors the film as the widowed wife of a farmer who's still trying to solve the puzzle left to her by her husband, who died of throat cancer. In his last stages, after he could no longer speak, he was leaving notes for his wife, which she continues to find as she goes through his papers or looks in other nooks and crannies of their belongings.

This dramatic, tearful segment is lightened by Penpak's character's farmhand nephew and his dingbat girlfriend, who live with her. At the dinner table one evening, at Penpak's urging, the girl starts to talk about her sexual frustration due to her man being tired from farm work all day, and she reels off a endless stream of metaphors – her cobwebbed cave, her closed shop, etc. – that had the audience in stitches. There's also a fairly explicit sex scene, which is the likedly reason censors deemed Home strong enough for an 18+ (but still unrestricted) rating.

It's a fantastical segment, recalling Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Uncle Boonmee, in which the widow communes in her dreams with the boy spirit of her dead hubby. The dreams and the found notes leading her to believe that an offering of a case of beer to a monk would be appropriate, the monk asks her take it back.

The closing section is a wedding, with "Noon" Siriphan Wattanajinda as a northern bride who's marrying a wealthy factory owner (Ruangsak Loychoosak) from Phuket in the south. They seem to be a poor fit, with the closed-mouth guy spending more time working with his iPad than communicating with his wife-to-be.

The arrival of the groom's mother brings more trouble, as the snooty woman has nothing but complaints about having to travel to Chiang Mai to the remote resort "in the middle of the jungle" for the wedding ceremony.

The bride has support from colorful friends, her comic-relief aunt (scene-stealing Puttachat Pongsuchat) and her anal-retentive brother (Love of Siam's Witwisit Hirunyawongkul), who's handling the elaborate wedding arrangements, including a band – another chance for Chookiat and his pals to demonstrate their musical talent.

After a night of drinking with her old Chiang Mai friends, she talks with an old boyfriend, which leads to a classic romantic-comedy misunderstanding that leads to classic romantic-comedy wedding-ceremony troubles. And Noon Siriphan leaks so much water from her eyes you have to wonder if a flash-flood warning was issued during the production.

If anything, this segment reveals the weird things Thais do at weddings, which apparently involve ritual public humiliation amid shooting gold confetti. After seeing Home, I can't understand why anyone would want to get married if that's what they are expected to go through. But that's just me.

It's here that all three segments are tied together, with Chookiat cleverly finding useful ways to integrate the other characters – Penpak is a flower arranger and friend of the bride's family, while the photographer is taking pictures of the wedding. And all three storylines come to fitting and poetic conclusions, one sad, another wistful and the other hopeful.

Notably, the film is mostly in the Northern Thai dialect and Bangkok screenings have dual English and central Thai subtitles.

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