Monrak Transistor (Transistor Love Story) reminds me of the stories we used to get from TV soaps. The setting, the characters, and mainly, for the amount of “bad luck” that befell the characters. But was it really bad luck? Wasn’t it just the choices they made? Maybe both. Pan gets drafted into the army and has to leave Sadaw, his wife, pregnant with their first child. Sadaw is left with a transistor radio, Pan’s gift to her on their wedding day. Pan writes to her every day and sings “Mai Leum” (“Never Forget”) for her, amidst a military training montage. Until one day he stops. Because he doesn’t know how to tell her that he went AWOL, and joined a pop music group in the city. If only his love for her was bigger than his dream to become a singing star. From there, the movie seamlessly transitions from bucolic rom-com, to a musical melodrama, an action movie, and tragic crime thriller. Like in that Belle & Sebastian song, Pan thought “there was love in everything and everyone.” Unlike the story in the song though, Pan didn’t succeed — not with a winning smile, not with his naivety. After years of mopping floors and toiling in prison, finally, it brings him back to where it started. Back to Sadaw. Except they aren’t the same persons anymore, not the same enamored couple we meet earlier in the movie. When they see each other again near the end, you can’t help but feel the weight of the years they spent apart, the hardships that they went through. It’s a wonderfully bittersweet ending. And like the boy in that Belle & Sebastian song — not trying to make excuses here — oh boy, do I always cry at endings.
Language barrier is a bitch. Kaya (Sora Aoi), a Japanese chick in Thailand leaves for the US after graduating from her English class. Then, she dumps her Thai boyfriend Yim (Sunny Suwanmethanon), via a recorded message (in English), thru the help of her friend/teacher/translator Ms. Pleng (Preechaya Pongthananikorn). You ask, how did they become lovers in the first place? Kaya probably speaks a little Thai, but according to Yim they’re really in love (they’re sleeping together). Thus, Yim gets desperate to learn his ABC’s just to win Kaya back. Pleng, who’s reasonably hesitant at first, eventually agreed to help Yim—but only after she received grave threats from the latter. There really isn’t much with movie’s will or won’t they plot. And it doesn’t need the whole movie for girl and guy to realize they’re meant to be together. Who would you rather: pretty, bubbly, and wholesome teacher Pleng or far and away and not a little bit promiscuous Kaya? It’s obvious (but I’m not gonna judge you if you choose former JAV idol Sora Aoi). If the romantic aspect isn’t much, is the comedy any better? The movie isn’t free from rote slapstick routines, but it’s funnier when it’s just the two leads together. One time, Yim tells Pleng’s ex-boyfriend/suitor that they’re married and she’s pregnant, only so he’ll stop seeing her. There’s also this really funny scene where one poor school boy shit his pants after Yim caught him in the act of taking upskirt picture of Pleng.