Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rak haeng Siam (The Love of Siam)

The Love of Sherbet

Rak haeng Siam (The Love of Siam)

Written and Directed by Chukiat Sakveerakul (13 Beloved)

Cast: Witwisit Hiranyawongkul (4 Romances), Mario Maurer (Friendship), Cheryarn Boonyasak (4bia), Sinjai Plengpanich (The Legend of Suriyothai)

Somewhere in the second half of the movie, the characters converge in Siam Square. The camera follows the craning necks and the long last looks, the oblivious, the forgotten and the ignored, under blinking lights down clogged streets. It’s a short sequence but it has left its mark. “The Love of Siam” feels accidental. The placid storytelling takes its time and lets life run its true, natural course. And the effect is almost incomprehensible. The story is quite straightforward: Two boys Mew, the withdrawn wimp, and Tong, the rugged menace, become friends in a quiet neighborhood until Tong’s family is struck by tragedy and had to move house. Years later, Mew (Witwisit Hiranyawongkul) and Tong (Mario Maurer) meet again, rekindle their friendship, but both now weighed down by growing pains, the former’s “frightening loneliness” and Tong’s crumbling family life. And here, the movie goes where no mainstream teen romance (as the film was marketed in Thailand to gain a wider audience) dared to venture.Chukiat Sakveerakul's script is delicate and never becomes precious with sentimentality. The graceful camera movements panning across bedrooms, streets and classrooms, the steady shots of a family unraveling or a fragile kiss, keep the pace slow but thoroughly involving. With the Director’s Cut running 178 minutes, one would expect a drop somewhere—even the much acclaimed “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” had a saggy middle—but not a second is wasted.Sakveerakul cleverly slips in enough quirky tics that widen Mew and Tong’s universes. The feisty neighbor who has resorted to chick-lit voodoo to win Mew’s heart, the band manager that finds herself entangled in Tong’s family, and the treasure hunt games. The treasures? A toy. Then a goodbye. “The Love of Siam” is a deceptively simple, no-frills family drama. But like Mew adding the missing nose of a wooden puppet as tears of rejection and gratitude run down his uncomplaining face, I am left grasping for reasons and motives. For whys and what-ifs.“The Love of Siam” feels accidental, much like the love it defines: We simply can’t choose where our love lands. 5/5

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