I'm re-posting this review...I'm feeling a little sentimental these past few days; and the unusually cold wind that's been blowing during the late afternoon these few days isn't helping either. I decided to watch this film again, it does stir the heart a bit...
Do you remember the time when you were in high school? When, for the most part, as much as you were on the verge of burgeoning maturity, you would easily cast it away for some happy time with your friends? Too often you walk around with this sense of invulnerability that goes with youth; bearing your then unscathed heart and your unbound dreams. This is where the Thai film FRIENDSHIP takes me back to. [It’s been a bit timely to have seen it lately considering it has been ten years since I graduated from high school]
FRIENDSHIP is the story of a teenage boy named Singha and the love he had for a girl named Mituna; the new girl, who transferred at the start of their senior year in high school. Singha, played by Mario Maurer [who shot to instant fame after his debut as a teenager coming to terms with his homosexuality in the film The Love of Siam -click on the link to read my review], was as typical as a teenage boy could be: a bit of a smart-aleck who hangs out with a boisterous set of friends, sexually curious, and often flirtatious with the girls. While Mituna, played by a lovely Thai actress named Apinya Sakuljaroensuk [there’s something about this girl that reminds me of a crush I had back in high school], was a girl that kept to herself and did not say much. It would have been a perfect boy meets girl scenario but instead Singha picks on Mituna due to her chosen silence, and as each act of teasing moves into the next, Singha pushes the envelope further until Mituna can’t take it anymore and could do nothing else but hit Singha in the face which somehow snaps him into a realization that he may have gone too far this time.
I love the way the film portrays that haze of infatuation often acted out as something else before a guy realizes that he actually likes the girl but the damage is done. I don’t know if it’s my love for Mario Maurer or the way his character is written [or maybe a combination of both], that can’t make me hate him and what he did. I mean, the first time we see Singha is when he helps out this lady with a cane at the bus stop who got knocked over by a passing commuter rushing for the bus. He then hands her a marigold which he has in his shirt pocket before he leaves to ride the next bus. He’s not that bad a guy; he just gets it wrong sometimes. Moving on…
It’s not until Singha secretly follows Mituna around that he realizes how mean he has been to her; he follows her to a social welfare facility and learns that her mother is deaf and mute. The apology that follows is a montage of a boy that has fallen in love with the girl who fought back. I’m not that versed with Thai pop culture so I have no idea if the song in the montage, which had this two-decades-ago-cheesy-quality to it, was actually a vintage tune; but it works.
Now, the movie itself is full of those teen situations of underage drinking, getting wasted on weed for the first time, misadventures into haunted houses, the generic out-of-town trip [thank god, no one broke into a song and dance by the beach, or rather the pool on this one like those really horrible Filipino movies], and the dynamics of the relationships with the people they share these with. After all, don’t they say that the friends one makes in school are the friends you have for life? I think the movie does well in establishing these within the plot elements in the sentimentality of it all. [I don’t want to focus too much on the other characters and how they figure in to the storyline in this review because they are best appreciated when seen]
I guess when you’re young and in love, there’s so much energy you can spare. For when things got a little better between them, the boy finds a way to understand her and to be understood. Just like what Singha said about words not being enough, he finds a way to learn how to do sign language. Now, it takes a certain kind of filmmaker to understand the difference between acceptable and revolting sentimentality. The sign language thing would not have worked if some generic Filipino director took a shot at it, I think. There is a pace that the film takes which makes it rather lighthearted and feeling like you were reminiscing on a lazy Sunday afternoon even if there’s a visually established flashback in the plot.
And as the end of senior year fast approaches with teenagers wanting to squeeze in so much before it does, a tragedy comes upon them. Lam, one of their friends, gets stabbed by a former schoolmate who joins up a gang that is hunted down by the police. Lam transferred in the same time as Mituna and was responsible in making Singha realize his true feelings for Mituna.
You know that feeling when things are happening all at once and you don’t seem to have the chance to slow it down and you have no chance but to bear with it? It’s excruciating to watch Singha and Mituna’s lives take the direction that will start to bring them apart. Singha’s father, a police officer, gets assigned to another district and they have to move out; while Mituna’s absentee father decides to sell the house they are living in and tells them to live in the country convinced that it will be better for Mituna’s mother. But both of them have no idea that this was happening to the other.
I don’t know what a “friendship book” is exactly, but the way I understand it from the movie is that it’s some form of scrapbook or memento that your friends pass around to write stuff on. Singha hands Mituna his pages for her to write on. Mituna promises to return it on the day they release the final exam results.
This reminds me of something my friend Sandro told me about last Friday; that we are where we are because God has a perfectly good reason for letting it be so. Watching it unfold before my eyes, I felt as if God was a little too harsh on Singha and Mituna. By mere moments they would miss each other; one turning left, the other tuning right. In the place where they promised to meet, in the places where each thought the other would be, and in the place where a desperate hearts clings to the hope of seeing one’s love, would they learn that they were not to see each other that day.
Singha would spend years carrying this love for Mituna wondering why she did not at least keep her promise. Even during their class reunion, Singha was kind of hoping to at least see her there and be happy for her if she had a family of her own. One day, while doing work with the indigenous communities in the mountains, Singha chances upon Mituna’s mother. Singha learns that Mituna is gravely ill. Okay, remember when I said that God was a bit harsh on Singha and Mituna a paragraph ago? Take that as an understatement.
That fateful day when they had promised to meet each other, something happened to Mituna; something that I commend the writer for not showing and just merely suggesting. I don’t think I have the heart to see that.
When Singha finally gets to see her, he realizes how gravely ill she really is. By this time, the movie hits you with a realization why it chose Friendship as a title. As much as we know there is a story of youthful romantic love, what moves one’s heart is the enduring power a deeper love has in their lives; and that is their Friendship. Don’t get confused on that one. You have to see the movie to really appreciate that amidst all that falling in love they built a great relationship between themselves for simply being genuine. I think some writers lose that kind of dynamic in order to come out with commercially viable romances. I don’t know if I’m communicating this properly, or if I’m speaking in tongues by this point. But maybe I’ll get back to this post sometime later and find my words.
There’s beauty in sadness as one friend of mine articulated. And I have a penchant for watching movies that portray this not just because I’m Asian [not many Filipinos would want to admit they are Asian though] and that is expected of me to understand but also because the barefoot baklesa is such a sap and he’d much rather have a good cry. Hahahaha!!!
Go and watch it if you want to have a good cry.
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