2006/Feb/05

Secrets of the heart


Director Komkrit Treewimol avoids vapidity and triteness in 'Dear Dakanda'
Bangkok Post, Friday 07 October 2005
Kong Rithdee



Puen Sanit, (Dear Dakanda), Starring Sunny Suwanmethanon, Sirapat Watanajinda, Maneerat Kam-uan, Directed by Komkrit Treewimol : At the final moment of Puen Sanit, a young lad says in his last letter to his best female friend that he wishes to end his heartfelt note without making it trite. Cynics among viewers may find that a long shot, because after all Puen Sanit, a new Thai film by one of the six directors that made Fan Chan a blockbuster in 2003, has trod along the path of triangulated teen romance for nearly two hours and could've easily ended up being nothing but, well, very trite.

But it is not. Director Komkrit Treewimol seems to know how to make his movie cute and likeable without labouring to please the audience too much. He uses cliches, but in a way that are somehow true to the context of the characters. And because he has a good-looking trio to help him navigate the landmines of vapidity and triteness, Puen Sanit is a decent popcorn movie that I wouldn't mind seeing again with my best (preferably female) friend.

That's the footing of the film: What would you do when you fall in love with your best friend? Romantic love has a way of making itself superior to other feelings, but we all know that's not always true, and the bond of friendship is sometimes more valuable than the shallow sizzling of newfound love. The rash type may be ready to sacrifice one for the other _ to confess your love to your best buddy and risk losing him/her forever _ while the romantics will nurture that hidden love and hope it'll one day evaporate, or even better, that it'll be melded into the vein of everlasting friendship. Please do not downplay all this as mere adolescent sentiments; that'd be an emotional bankruptcy of us adults. Young people are people too, and they have the right to the feelings they believe are most important to them.


Sunny Suwanmethanon, trying quite successfully not to look like the pretty boy that he is, plays a Chiang Mai art student with the unfortunate nickname of Broken Eggs. His buddy _ the one he hangs out, drinks, dances, paints and has fun with _ is a sunny-looking girl named Dakanda (newcomer Sirapat Watanajinda). From Day One at university, Broken Eggs is smitten by this lanky, talkative girl, though because he's either not sure how his feelings will develop or if he rates friendship above all else, the boy chooses to play innocent and spends four tormented years without letting his true emotion slip.

This thread of story, told in a series of flashbacks, is intercut with Broken Eggs's trip to the island of Koh Pha-Ngan at the end of his last university year. On the ferry, Broken Eggs falls from the top deck and is rushed to the only hospital on the island, where he's taken care of by a young nurse named Nui. Nui (Maneerat Kam-uan, with a mouth-watering southern dialect) dotes on her patient and urges Broken Eggs to take up the job of doing portraits for farang tourists. It's not too hard to predict what's happening here between the pretty nurse and her patient drugged by the beauty of the southern seas: Nui falls for Broken Eggs, but it seems the boy's heart is fixed on another woman, from another place, in another time.

The film works because it stages some of its key moments with a mix of spontaneity and confident direction. These are not big moments, but small, intimate ones like when Broken Eggs tells Dakanda that he hasn't asked any girl to pose for him for his portrait assignment, and Dakanda casually tells him that he can paint her. Or when the lovesick Nui asks Broken Eggs why he travels to the island alone _ which is the same question the audience is curious to find an answer. Broken Eggs is a shy boy capable only of speaking succinct sentences (is that a fixed trait of an artist?) but he's an eloquent letter-writer, and most of the film's best writing is in the letters the boy pens to Dakanda during his island sojourn.

The three leads, though not required to do any serious acting, are the reasons the film is pleasant to watch throughout. Sirapat, who plays Dakanda, is a girl who's more appealing than pretty, more interesting than breathtaking, and more like a drinking buddy than a trophy girlfriend. She won't turn heads, but when she does you can't take your eyes off her. On the contrary, Maneerat, as Nurse Nui, is a classic beauty, a doe-eyed girl with prim manners and a soft, slightly tremulous voice like a Chopin ballad; she's the kind of woman your mother would be proud to have as an in-law.

That makes Broken Eggs the luckiest man in the movie _ though in love matches as in football matches, luck has less to do with it all. Sunny Suwanmethanon plays Broken Eggs as a taciturn lad who buries his feelings deep in his own chest. Compared to the two girls though, his character seems less clearly-defined, and Broken Eggs at times becomes a reluctant, passive lover who's not making a move until it's nearly too late. Maybe boys are like that today. Maybe it's left to the girls, especially a personality like Dakanda, to define the modern meaning of romance that boys have no choice but to comply.

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