Happy Old Year


Director: Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit 
Year: 2019
Rating: 8.0
Country: Thailand

Aka  - How to Ting

I had planned on seeing Star Wars with my young friend who I babysit at times - and we are were set to go when I found out she had no clue what Star Wars was about - had seen none of the films - at 12 years old - how can that happen. When I explained to her that there were 8 films before this one and she was welcome to watch them on my dvds, it looked like her head was going to explode and so we instead went to see this Thai film. I have a really bum leg at the moment so the idea of getting to Rama 9 to see some random Thai film was not one I was thrilled with. But damn, it might not be Star Wars but from all the negative ratings and comments I have seen so far, it may be better. It was really good in a thoughtful somber manner that made me think about family, memories and loss.

The actress - wait for the very long name - Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying - but with the shorter nickname of Aokbab gives one of the best performances I have seen in ages. Very contained, restrained almost cold and yet the emotional moments that are slowly introduced into the film are played with real nuanced flickers of expression that run across her face and when she finally breaks down and cries it is powerful. She is literally in every scene - a real stellar performance. She was given the Screen International Rising Star Asia at New York Asian Film Festival in 2017 for the film Bad Genius which I have been sitting on for a while and now will definitely see it.

The film is influenced by the writings of Marie Kondo who has become so fashionable of late with her philosophy of throwing away anything you own that does not "spark joy" when you pick it up. Spark joy seems a high standard to me - pretty much everything I own would not meet that standard and yet I love being surrounded by my things - they don't spark joy but they bring me comfort and some of them engender memories that are always there waiting for me to turn to. On the other hand I have had to throw away things simply for needed space and when you think about all the things you have thrown away in your life, how often do you think about them later? Probably never. Well, except those baseball cards and comics my mother threw away from the early 1960s! I think about those. How could you!

Jean (Aokbab) has just come back from three years in Sweden where she has studied interior decoration and has developed a taste for minimalism and all things white - like Buddha she says. She has decided that the old house where her brother and mother live will be turned into her office - they will be moved upstairs - and everything will be tossed out. And like most Thai homes I have been in that is a lot of stuff collected over a lifetime. As she goes about this process the film begins to fill in details of her life and the people who are or were in her life. A boyfriend she blocked once she left for Sweden without an explanation or friends that she has lost contact with.

You realize that the process of getting rid of possessions - began with her a long while back when she got rid of all the people in her life. She is making her emotional life minimalist as well. No emotional bonds to clutter up your life. Her attitudes hurt people who cared about her including her mother who wants to hang on to memories - even of her husband who deserted the family to start another many years in the past. The film gains emotional weight as it goes along but in the end it doesn't go where you expect it to and I credit the director (yes another long name) Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit with not being lazy and to keep us thinking alone with Jean who seems so conflicted at times. The cinematography captures the mood of the film - very clean and beautiful placement of the camera. Very well made. This will probably not be appearing at a theater near you, but hopefully some people will get a chance to see it. The posters might make one think this was a romance - it isn't - almost an anti-romance.