Director Chookiat Sakveerakul has established himself as a specialist in depicting the thrill, the drama and the inevitable disquiet of adolescence. Some of his most memorable characters are young people who're growing up. Especially in The Love of Siam and in the touching first part of his previous work, Home, boys are crossing the threshold of childhood into something else as they still try to grasp its emotional meaning. It's hard being a kid, but it's harder leaving childhood, wading into the jungle of adult feelings, of adult consequences. When in good form, Chookiat has a natural knack for capturing and relating that shaky uncertainty.
Starring Panthadanaya Jan-ngern, Kittisak Pathomburana, Krisnaphum Pibulsongkram, Purim Ratanaruangwatana and Gybzy Wanida. Directed by Chookiat Sakveerakul. In Thai with English subtitles.
His latest, Grean Fiction (I propose an English title, Punk Fiction), is largely set in a high school in Chiang Mai and deals with a group of friends, with the focus on Tee (Panthadanaya Jan-ngern), possibly the most sensitive of the gang. His friends are all bright-looking and appropriately grean (the hip jargon meaning wild and in-your-face), and the three years of high-school is the fairground for their puppy romances, humiliations and youthful hopes. After he becomes a prime cause of embarrassment for his crush in front of the entire school, Tee is hurt, traumatised and a domestic complication with his sister (Gybzy Wanida) eventually drives the boy to run away from home.
I hope I didn't make it sound too sober. The film has the riding mood of its main subjects: largely cheerful, comically foolish and acceptably impolite. It harks back to the Thai teen films of the early 1990s, only that the teens now seem teenier than 20 years ago. But Grean Fiction, which is not as strong as Chookiat's other films about youths, is a feel-good movie, which is a shortcoming, particularly when the director's take on adolescent anxiety feels less sharp, less urgent and too easily resolved. What Chookiat is always good at is making teenage fears seem heroic _ again in The Love of Siam and the first part of Home _ and his glorification of youth is so sincere it can be moving. What's lacking in Grean Fiction is the density of feeling, and the family drama between Tee and his sister feels half-hearted.
And yet this is a film designed for the school summer break, when everyone under 18 wants to laugh and be merry, and if that's what you want I won't be a party pooper. The young cast of the film inhabit their roles with joy; that's another of Chookiat's strengths, since he has a way of getting inexperienced teenage actors to basically play themselves _ to be themselves. It's almost like the way Iranian filmmakers guide their young actors through a documentary-style approach, though our Thai counterpart feels less like an intellectualised effort. In his better films, Chookiat knows how to wrestle light out of what seems like bleakness _ the ethereal beauty of being young and slightly stupid _ and I just think Grean Fiction would've been more fun, more beautiful if it had been more grean.
About the author
- Writer: Kong Rithdee
Position: Deputy Life Editor