Review by Sean Bugg
Rating: (5 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!]
Thursday, 10/22/2009, 8:30 PM
Feature presentation, $10 at Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Center for the Arts
Thai with English Subtitles
MELODRAMA GETS a bad rap, a victim of the campiness that infects the genre from the formula of Lifetime’s woman-in-danger movies to the hysteria of Mexican telenovelas. But done without the pathos and parody, melodrama has plenty to offer beyond wildly emotional characters.
If I’ve learned nothing else from years of reviewing Reel Affirmations films, I’ve learned when it comes to melodrama done right, no one beats Asian cinema. Earnest, unironic and unashamed in its presentation of over-the-top emotions and flagrant tugging of heartstrings, these annual missives from Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and beyond offer some of the most consistently entertaining — and moving — films you’ll see.
This year’s standout, Love of Siam, hails from Thailand and tells the story of two boys, Mew and Tong, whose childhood friendship is disrupted by family family tragedy. Tong’s older sister, Tang, disappears while on a hiking trip and is presumed dead, leaving their mother distantly brittle and their father a near-catatonic alcoholic.
Tong’s family moves away, leaving behind the young and emergingly gay Mew. The two meet again a few years later in Bangkok, where both attend high school and Mew is on the brink of stardom as the lead singer of a boy band. Inspired by their re-connection, Mew writes the sure-fire hit the band manager demands — a love song for Tong.
Shattered families and unrequited love all spiral toward a conclusion that will draw tears, even if no one gets exactly what they’re looking for. After all, as the one of the characters says, ”If you have love, you have hope.”