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Love of Siam
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Love of Siam

Witwisit Hiranyawongkul (left) and Mario Maurer (right) in Love of Siam
Thai: รักแห่งสยาม
Year: 2007  

Chookiat Sakveerakul


Chookiat Sakveerakul


Witwisit Hiranyawongkul, Mario Maurer, Chermarn Boonyasak, Sinjai Plengpanich, Songsit Rungnopakunsri, Kanya Rattanapetch, Aticha Pongsilpipat

  The Skinny: This Thai youth gay romance drama runs a little long, but it packs enough interesting characters and situations in that audiences are likely to feel a little dissatisfied that the film has to end.
Kevin Ma:

A simple gay love story between two childhood friends turns into an epic about grief and infatuation in The Love of Siam, a seemingly unassuming drama that became a sensation in its native Thailand. Even a bigger surprise than its success is that Chookiat Sakveerakul, the writer-director of this gentle film, was the co-writer of the Muay Thai action fest Chocolate, which was…not so gentle. Despite coming dangerously close to being overstuffed, Love of Siam features enough endearing characters and intriguing situations that its 171-minute running time (this review refers to the director's cut) never feels like its length. And even then, the film feels like it has enough to fill in at least another hour. With so many over-bloated big-budget films out of Asia these days, that has to be some kind of compliment.

What's impressive about Love of Siam is that it features a fairly simple cast of characters in a fairly simple story. The film's two heroes, Mew and Tong, meet as young boys after Mew moves into his grandmother's home and becomes Tong's neighbor. The two become inseparable good friends, but tragedy strikes Tong's family when Tong's older sister goes off on a jungle trip with her friends and goes missing. In the midst of their grief, Tong's entire family moves away, and the two eventually lose contact. Sakveerakul doesn't simply spend the opening section setting up the two boys' friendship. The motivations for all the other characters are set up during the opening in an organic manner that never drags, though the film doesn't really get to the heart of the story until 30 minutes in.

The story then jumps to six years later, as Mew (Witwisit Hiranyawongkul) has become a lead singer in a popular pop group, while Tong (Mario Maurer) is trying to maintain some kind of normalcy with his family, even as his father slowly drinks himself to death out of guilt over what happened to his daughter. One day, the two reunite on the streets, and their friendship is immediately rekindled. However, Mew seems to be showing more than just friendly feelings for Tong, who isn't too sure about how to deal with them. Meanwhile, Tong meets June (Chermarn Boonyasak), Mew's band manager, and cooks up a scheme with his protective mother to save his father's life after realizing that June looks exactly like his vanished sister. Will June convince Tong's father to pick up the pieces and rejoin his family? Will love blossom between Mew and Tong, despite the obvious social taboos?

Of course, since the film is called The Love of Siam (named after Siam Square in Bangkok, where the major events of the love story happen), a love affair is bound to happen for Mew and Tong. However, the love affair is handled in a surprisingly realistic manner, with the relationship shown in mostly ambiguous terms, rarely defining the their relationship clearly. Even though this may be due to Thai audience's resistance to gay love stories (the film was reportedly advertised as a straight love story in Thailand, to the chagrin of some audiences), Sakveerakul's down-to-earth approach to the love affair as more than a gay love story allows audiences of all sexualities to relate, and it's a major key to the film's success.

While the gay love story may be the film's selling point, Love of Siam's emotional core actually lies in the endless grieving process of Tong's family. The subplot on Tong's family is given the same amount of emphasis as the film's central love story plot. Even though June's character is enough of a melodramatic contrivance that she should earn the alternate name of Plot Device, she doesn't sidetrack the plot in any major way because of Sakveerakul's naturalistic handling of the story. However, the weak impact of the June device also means Sakveerakul doesn't lead her story to any type of clear resolution, which will sure dissatisfy audiences who want some kind of return for their time investment in the film.

In fact, this reviewer is not entirely sure what kind of returns Love of Siam offers after 170 minutes. The conclusion of the story arrives at a somewhat abrupt point and feels like it can continue on to give the story a clearer resolution. While this speaks to the weakness of Sakveerakul's script, it also speaks to its strength in creating characters and situations that are engaging enough that audiences would easily sign on for more. Credit must also go to Sakveerakul's role as director. Despite some awkward direction (especially the scene of Mew and Tong's first reunion), the director keeps a brisk pace throughout, never letting the film slow down for longer than it needs to, while also not cramming too much story in. The Love of Siam shouldn't be recognized as another gay romance film; it's simply a well-told love story related in an involving manner, and is one worth watching whether you're gay or straight. (Kevin Ma, 2009)

Notes: • This review refers to the 170-minute Director's Cut. The original theatrical version runs just over 150 minutes.

DVD (Taiwan)
Region 0 NTSC
Link International
Three-Disc Director's Edition
4:3 Widescreen
Original Thai Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable Chinese and English Subtitles
Various Extras

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