Starring: Rattanaballang Tohssawat, Chaiwat Tongsang, Weeradit Srimalai, Chatcha Rujinanon
Directed by: Poj Arnon
Running Time: 90 minutes
I normally don't watch a lot of Asian movies that are not Japanese or Korean, but I do find a couple interesting works that catch my interest by just the summary. If you hadn't noticed, I'm a pretty open-minded person and I can usually find some things very artistic as oppose to others who don't analyze movies as deeply as myself. One example could be Strange Circus which raises many controversial topics that most would think is for pure shock factor and not delving into the artistic symbolism of the film. This movie isn't for everyone, because the subject deals with homosexuality and touches a bit on HIV/AIDS as well. So, if you don't have an open-mind, you might want to skip this review or even attempt to try something new.
Mhek (Cloud) is a lone gunman who assassinates people as a living. He's very good at what he does and never misses his target. He uses his income to support his mother who is suffering from AIDS and his younger brother who has HIV and plans on taking them to the mountains of Mae Hong Son Province. The movie starts off showing us Mhek doing his job and soon spots his latest target...a police officer by the name of It (Brick), who is enjoying the evening out with his fiancée. After following his target for a good amount of time, Mhek captures It and brings him to his boss, but his boss orders Mhek to kill him and he refuses, saying he only kills the targets that are criminals. This response upsets his boss and the scene breaks out into a gun battle. It helps defend Mhek during the fight and helps him escape once he is hit by a bullet. They hop onto Mhek's motorcycle and head out to the streets. They make a little stop to Mhek's family and It informs them about the situation and passes Mhek's message along to Mhok (Fog), Mhek's brother.
Settling in Mhek's hideout on a rooftop it seems, It consistently takes care of Mhek's bullet wound and nurses him by staying by his side and cleaning him up. As he continues to care for the gunman, It gradually develops feelings for him and soon acts on them. Feeling conflicted with what was going on (and possibly an influence from his past), Mhek later threatens It to leave his home and to never come back.
I must admit, I normally get bored with the majority of romance stories. They become predictable and unrealistic, but this film had more than just romance. It added action, crime, and drama. Bangkok Love Story has a bit of unrealistic emotion, but in a way, you don't mind it, because you're so drawn into the story. The movie doesn't completely depend on mushy moments or graphic sexual scenes to keep your attention nor does it have senseless violence. It goes at a slow easy pace so you can get a good grasp of the characters and gather your opinions on how you feel about them and the situation that's going on around them. This movie allows you to study the characters' body language, the environment, and the emotion translated onto the screen with or without dialogue.
Bangkok Love Story has so many commendable elements that must be recognized in this review. Starting with Rattaballung Tohssawat and Chaiwat Tongsang who play the main male roles as Mhek and It, they both did an amazing job interacting with each other as well as the other characters who have a strong bond with them. Both men have stated that they are straight, I have read that Chaiwat took on the role to challenge himself and Rattaballung said it was an honor to take on a possible homosexual character. The article also stated that Rattaballung's girlfriend was a little paranoid about the kissing scenes, although both men thought they could fake it, but the director didn't want that. Being both heterosexual, it must've been a challenge to be something you're not and they did a great job of having this strong loving bond that you can't help but support. Rattaballung brought masculinity and a sense of wanting to be emotionless to his character. It's difficult to portray a character who believes he is strong and independent, but deep down inside he wants to grab ahold of his true emotions instead of shunning them away. Chaiwat also did just as good of a job being a little more sensitive and also masculine in certain ways. He portrayed the difficult task of wanting to be there for the woman he was planning to spend his life with, but also wanting to be a little selfish and lose himself with his feelings for Mhek. Weeradit Srimalai as Mhok, Mhek's younger brother, had a hard character of being frustrated with the world for judging him and his disease as well as his mother. He had a somewhat weak character that had a lot of pent up frustration building inside him, until he decided to take control of the situation in a way that isn't right. Although she had a minor role like the mother, Chatcha Rujinanon as Sai, It's fiancée, had an important task of moving the story along as well. Like Mhok to Mhek, Sai (Sand) has a close bond to It and the whole subtle emotional shift affected her, which created even more conflict in the movie. She was very quiet, emoted her emotions through her body language, and wasn't oblivious to the distance in her relationship with It like some characters in other movies. She reacted to the situation in a very realistic way, even though it could've been viewed as extreme.
What I've noticed by looking at other people's reviews on the movie is that they mention the beautiful soundtrack and the amazing cinematography used throughout the film, which I can definitely agree with. There are a few moments in the movie where there is absolutely no dialogue just music and great shots of the character(s) in this lavish environment. Not only does the acting pull you into the emotion of character(s), but the music plays a big part of prodding your mind and heart into feeling that same emotion. The scenery completes the rest of the emotional translation on the screen to the viewer's eyes. If you notice, the colors and lighting aren't that cheerful which emphasizes that this is a serious movie and there's a possibility that emotions will be flowing out uncontrollably.
In the end, the love making scenes could've been executed a little better, but they do their job of telling the viewer that there is a lot of emotion built up and the feeling between the two main characters are true. Sometimes the chemistry between them became a little frustrating and you're ready for them to hook up already, but the pace is tolerable. There's a lot of drama that goes on throughout the movie. When you think things are going to be "happily ever after", things tend to go downhill and drag the viewers along with it to the possibility of being in tears by the time the credits roll. If you can handle gunfights, discrimination against people who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, and suicide, then you can get through this Thailand masterpiece. Bangkok Love Story is a great movie to watch to get in touch with your inner most feelings about romance and just embracing what true love and sacrifice looks like. I highly recommend this movie and if you're going to watch it, be sure to have the tissue box on stand by, because I nearly cried...which is a very, very hard thing to do.