JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Wonderful Town (Director: Aditya Assarat) - October 7, 2008

Wonderful Town

5 5
92 min.

Reviewed at the 2008 Vancouver International Film Festival
Astonishing power

When people come to the conclusion that life is so meaningless there’s nothing to lose they do reckless, unpredictable things.

After the incredible devastation of the 2004 tsunami, Thai towns like Takua Pa lost much of their residents and livelihoods—making today’s global financial storm seem like isolated showers (and the truly guilty will never get wet).

Director/writer Aditya Assarat casts his love story with representative characters. Ton (Supphasit Kansen, quietly passionate) is the seemingly footloose architect who comes to the seaside resort town to oversee the completion of a tourist-luring replacement hotel. Na (Anchalee Saisoontorn, in a beautifully understated performance) is the worn-out, in-town hotel manager who is caught “between the mountain and the sea” in a boring, hopeless existence until her heart is awoken by the former songwriter-turned-designer. Na’s brother, Wit (Dul Yaambuning) has abandoned civilized society in favour of a life of crime (“Once a gangster, always a gangster”).

As the Ton/Na relationship blossoms (and, inevitably, everyone in the small village becomes aware of the Bangkok hotshot bedding one of their own) the wounds of routine neglect from corporate pillaging rise to the surface until desperate action provides the downtrodden a momentary—if shallow—victory.

Magically, Assarat spins this cautionary tale with little dialogue, leaving Umpornpol Yugala’s deft camera work (notably the endless tide flooding the screen after the lovers have finally savoured each other’s flesh, if not souls) leaves much of the narrative’s details to the imagination. Shimizu Koichi’s score also supports and enhances the visual and emotional content—particularly the solo guitar work, subliminally reminding everyone that in a previous life Ton was a musician.

Ton’s back-story is deliberately sketched but never filled in, leaving his fate as much of a puzzle as the countless thousands of disenfranchised people who didn’t “see the tsunami on television” like their big city countrymen, but experienced it up close and too personal as nature combined with the powerful, crushing their small hopes and big dreams forever.

Here’s a film not to be missed. JWR

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