Twelve years after the release of the groundbreaking Love of Siam, director Chookiat Sakveerakul is back with Dew the Movie (ดิว ไปด้วยกันนะ/Dew, Let’s Go Together), a film that shares some of the former’s heart and sincerity. But somehow loses a bit of the emotional connection to truly make for a profound experience.
Based on the 2001 Korean film Bungee Jumping of Their Own, Dew tells the story of two teenage boys, Dew (Ohm Pawat Chittsawangdee) and Phop (Nont Sadanont Durongkavarojana), in the late 1990s who must come to terms with the feelings they develop for each other.
Having to hide their relationship takes a toll on them until things come to a head and they are separated. Fast forward 23 years later and Phop (Weir Sukollawat Kanarot) returns to his hometown as a teacher, now married to a woman.
The film does a good job of setting the stage for Dew and Phop’s budding romance amidst the backdrop of a time when such a relationship was not accepted in Thai society. The typical teenage awkwardness of first love is seamlessly intertwined with the struggles they face from a judgmental and sometimes hateful community.
Ohm is no stranger to these types of roles and he immediately draws you in as the title character. He once again shows he is definitely one of the brightest young actors today. Newcomer Nont, meanwhile does a great job as Phop and endears you to a character that while familiar, still resonates. Together, they share a chemistry that allows them to effectively play off each other in a way that asserts both characters as their own person with unique strengths and weaknesses. And that results in several powerful and emotional scenes.
Where the film begins to stumble is in its second half where a legitimately fascinating turn of events and series of revelations somehow lessens the emotional impact and almost undermines the depth that was established in the first half.
*WARNING: full spoilers begin*
The film is essentially divided into two parts. The first half follows the two boys as they meet and fall in love. A series of events causes them to struggle and leads to their eventual separation.
The second half of the film picks up 23 years later as Phop settles back in his hometown with his wife only to begin sensing something different and perhaps familiar with troublemaking student Lew (Pahn Darisa Karnpoj).
After we learn Dew died in an accident the night Phop left town, Phop realizes that the love of his life may have been reincarnated as this teenage girl.
The memories and emotions from that previous life flood over Lew and she and Phop now have to deal with a different kind of taboo in the final moments of the film.
Now first off, I must admit that rebirth and reincarnation is a concept I may be vaguely familiar with. But definitely nothing more than the basic premise. I do recognize how it is a belief that may be more familiar to a Thai viewer. And that likely helps make the film much more accessible to them than to me.
And that lack of understanding on my part informed how disconnected I felt with the second half of the film. The relative awkwardness of a possible teacher-student relationship and the very wide age gap (Phop is at least twice the age of Lew), had me feeling lost and more confused at their reunion than feeling happy or excited.
Obviously, I do understand the idea of their souls being able to find each other again. Their love was that strong that they did so. And they loved each other so much that they make that decision to jump together in the end, fully believing that maybe in their next life, they’ll be able to be happier together. Or something like that.
But by that time in the film, I had already become too confused and bewildered to even care. The teenage Dew and Phop felt like a distant memory already. And I even slightly felt like Dew’s death and his rebirth as Lew was just a mere plot device to spice up the tragic endings that gay-themed films usually feature.
That may be a completely unfair interpretation of the film. But that’s unfortunately what I came away with. I don’t mind admitting that maybe the whole point of the film has gone clear over my head.
But as I mention in the headline to this review, I absolutely feel the sincerity in the film’s core premise. And it’s mostly because of the first half of the film.
I immediately remember the “They had us in the first half” meme. And this film really did have me in the first half.
Dew and Phop’s story was sincere and engaging, helped very much by the performances of Ohm and Nont. The first half of the film had a sort of fast-paced, yet poetic flow that was effective in endearing both characters and their relationship to the audience. Especially when it felt like the rest of the world was completely against them.
I honestly would not have minded if the film focused solely on them as teens. Even if it would end up feeling like a clone of Love of Siam. (A comparison that is unavoidable, especially with the same director at the helm.)
The second half of the film just felt so disconnected to all that strong development in the first half. And that is in spite of pretty solid performances from Weir and Pahn. This half went in a number of different directions before wrapping it all up with the two characters, whoever they may be at that moment, bungee jumping without their bungee cords.
Instead of that moment provoking a feeling of bittersweet romance and tragic heartbreak, I felt indifferent. I may have even asked myself “What in the world just happened?”
There’s also a feeling that Dew and Phop’s relationship and coming of age struggles are tossed aside by Dew becoming Lew, a female who would be less controversial for Phop to be in a relationship with even if there’s that whole pedophile angle (which they directly mention in the film). Phop marrying a woman is also a plot point that gets used merely for one dramatic scene towards the end instead of somehow helping to give more depth to Phop’s character.
It was fascinating to me when I learned that the film was an adaptation of a Korean film from 2001. And starring no less than Lee Byung Hun too. The story was slightly reversed, however, with the teenage couple being heterosexual and Dew’s Korean equivalent instead being reborn as a male. The destined couple also reunites in the less awkward time of college. (That is, apparently, as I have not yet watched the original film.)
Just reading about the Korean original, I get the sense that it may evoke a completely different set of emotions and I look forward to watching it.
But my ultimate takeaway from Dew is essentially the concept of a love so strong that it can transcend and overcome any type of obstacle, no matter how great or small. And again, I believe that is a very sincere premise.
Unfortunately, perhaps it’s a case of something getting lost in translation or me just having a severe lack of understanding about certain ideas and concepts. But Dew the Movie just falls short of being a truly emotional and affecting film for me.