My block in college really loves watching movies. We have this tradition of movie-cycles wherein we pass movie DVDs or CDs to each other, movie-purchasing wherein we purchase movies from Alvina, the official pirate CD-Burning entrepreneur of the block batch and, of course, movie-conferencing wherein we informally discuss the movies that we have watched. Love of Siam was once the talk of the town, especially by Arvin. They can’t get over with it. I wondered why, until I watched it (twice) just today. So here I am, can’t get over, suffering from the feeling of separation, suffering from the Love-of-Siam-syndrome. I would be having a reflection about the movie but first, let’s have a run-down through the finest review-summary I have found in the internet.
The Love of Siam (Chukiat Sakveerakul, 2007)
Thai Title: Rak haeng Siam
To label Chukiat Sakveerakul’s The Love of Siam as simply a gay teen romance is to misjudge its power and intention. Within the two and a half hour running time (the director’s cut is reportedly four hours long) of the film, Sakveerakul essays not only the two young leads’ reunion and inevitable attraction but also a family’s slow and painful road to accepting a long-delayed reality. I would like to think that The Love of Siam, above everything else, seeks to reaffirm the life-affirming values of loving and being loved without sacrificing the portrayal of the very palpable pain that usually accompanies the emotion.
The twenty-minute prologue tracks the histories of young Mew (Arthit Niyomkul) and Tong (Jirayu La-ongmanee), who are both schoolmates and neighbors. They form a very close friendship which was abruptly ended when Tong’s family had to move out when Tang (Laila Boonyasuk), Tong’s elder sister, went missing during a trip in Chiang Mai, causing the family tremendous and irreparable sorrow. Years later, Mew (Witwisit Hirunwongkul), lead singer and composer for an up and coming boy band, again crosses path with Tong (Mario Maurer), who is struggling at home with his domineering mother (Sinjai Plengpanich) and alcoholic father (Songsit Rungnopakunsri). The two reconnect and inevitably fall for each other, disrupting whatever peace they have grown accustomed to.
To make matters more complicated, Mew’s Chinese neighbor Ying (Kanya Rattanapetch) is hopelessly in love with Mew, not knowing of his homosexual tendencies. On the other hand, Tong is currently dating Donut (Aticha Pongsilpipat), presumably not knowing of his own homosexual tendencies too. Tong’s family, more specifically the father who’s been spending days and nights drinking, is still suffering from the loss of Tang. June (also played by Boonyasuk), Mew’s band manager who looks a lot like Tang, is then recruited to pose as the long lost daughter, momentarily easing the father of his staggered pains.
The Siam in the title refers to Siam Square, a shopping district in Bangkok where most teens hang out to shop, dine, meet, and have fun. Siam Square, in the eyes of the Bangkok youth, has become both the place for welcomes and farewells, of declarations of love and hurtful break-ups, of chance encounters and scheduled meetings. In the film, the popular venue is not only the setting for Mew and Tong’s reunion and the numerous other events in the story but it also represents the unpredictability of the many facets of love which the film so intricately paints. While Siam Square or any other shopping mecca are ordinarily thought of as accessories to the bastardization of love and romance because it commonly equates blatant commercialism with the love’s outward depictions like dating, gift-giving, and hanging out, The Love of Siam uses that very element to depict love’s many wanderings and permutations. Underneath the glow of the traditionally amiable romance, The Love of Siam strives to say something more about the act of loving, whether romantically or familial: that it is more a nebulous network-like journey to maintain hope than a straight path to the assumed happy ending.
In fact, The Love of Siam ends without any of its characters fulfilling the traditional conclusions of a love story. There are no happily-ever-afters or expected closures. Instead, the film ends with a mere spark of hope. That hope that closes the film actually opens up million of possibilities for its characters, as numerous as the countless fortuitous encounters in Siam Square that initiate relationships between strangers or abruptly conclude long-standing affairs all within the fateful movement of time. Sakveerakul drafts a bittersweet ode to the complexities of loving, which commercial cinema has tended to avoid throughout the years. What he exclaims in The Love of Siam is that daringly traversing outside the common simplicities of love is far more gratifying than safely assuming formula.
Through the interconnected lives of two boys who are on the verge of self-awareness amidst their own individual conflicts and the people surrounding them, Sakveerakul notes that love survives notwithstanding the dilemmas that pervade the world. As Ying translates from a Chinese song, “as long as there is love, there is hope.” Corny as it sounds, the Bangkok of The Love of Siam thrives on that noble aspiration, without knowing that it does so.
The movie, for me, is all about separation. The plot and the subplots induce that kind of idea. These are the different kinds of separation I have thought:
Separation from one’s bestfriend. Actually, it is not just about the separation from your best friend, it is more about separation from your only friend. And that pains me bigtime. Mew is relatively a shy, lonely boy. His only friend is his grandmother. But going along with the technical definition of a friend, his only friend, therefore, is Tong.
Separation from your only friend. After Tong left, Mew only had his grandmother with him. And when she died, he has, in the truest principle, no friend left. And that pains me more.
Separation from a daughter or a sister. Tang, Tong’s sister, went missing when the family had a trip to Chiangmai. Someone missing is worse than someone dying, many would say. It is better that you know what happened to someone (even knowing that he or she died) rather than not seeing him or her, being clueless of his/her whereabouts.
Separation from faith. Tong’s family is Christian. During the prologue, it was evident that the director wanted to stipulate the strong christian practices of Tong’s family. However, when Tang, Tong’s sister, was gone missing, their father started preventing Tong to pray before meals.
Separation from memories. Tong’s family decided to move-out from the house where they are living. Indirectly, the reason behind it is that the house contains a lot of Tang’s memories.
Separation of interests. Tong and Mew are different individuals. And they complement each other. Many critics applauded the characters’ and actors’ chemistry.
Separation from the nose-piece. When Tong and Mew were kids, Tong gave Mew something: A wooden doll that resembles a caricature of Santa Claus (I don’t know how to perfectly describe it. Hehe.) Anyway, Tong did not give it directly to Mew. They played a treasure hunting game. Unfortunately, the last piece (The nose part) wasn’t found. It resided in a tree that was cut down as soon as Mew got to the last stage of the hunt. This piece, however, was given by Tong to Mew at the end of the movie (How? Watch it! Hehe). The whole movie, for me, therefore is a hunting game, a game of completion–hunting for answers and solutions to the questions and problems of the characters. Therefore, for me, even though Mew and Tong did not end up together, Tong completed Mew. And I believe that the other way around is also true. :)
Separation from reality. Tong’s dad started being alcoholic after Tang’s disappearance. Sometimes, he pretends that Tang is still there. Moreover, Tong and Sunee (Tong’s mother) hired June to act as Tang so that Tong’s dad would have a temporary relief from being alcoholic. Reality is indeed bitter for both Mew and Tong. They found relief (through escapism maybe) with the company of each other. And this is one of the reasons why their emotions for each other grew and developed.
Separation from barkada. Tong became unattached with his friends when he became attached to Mew. Mew, on the other hand, became unattached to his band when he fell into the hands of depression after Sunee (Tong’s mom) asked him to stop his special relationship with Tong.
Separation from girlfriend. Tong became cold to Donut (She’s damn pretty) after he became emotionally-attached to Mew. He, moreover, dumped Donut in favor of Mew.
Separation from norms. Homosexuality or bisexuality is still not accepted in Thai society, even in the modern times. Moreover, Tong’s family has conservative standards when it comes to relationships. However, Tong pursued his feelings for Mew.
Separation from the meaning of Christmas. Tang disappeared during Christmas season. Tong and Mew’s separation (When they were children and when Mew was asked to separate his self from Tong) also happened during Christmas season. Christmas is supposed to be a season wherein everyone’s happy. :(
Separation from the second family. June, who pretended to be Tang, eventually left. WHICH is sad because Tang, the character she portrayed, also left Tong’s family.
Separation from your spouse. In reality, Sunee and Korn are not divorced or separated, but they seemed to be since Korn became alcoholic.
Separation from the one you desperately wanted. Ying, Mew’s loyal crush or lover maybe, already conceded to the fact that Mew only treats her as a very good friend. It really saddened me that he even helped Tong get the missing nose-piece. This proves that she still wanted Mew to be happy at the end of the day even if she is not Mew’s type. :(
Now with all of these separation-themes, tell me I shouldn’t be depressed after watching the movie! :<
- The overall atmosphere of the setting was sad. Not-so-sunny climate, uncrowded places, and cold nights. The Siam Square is crowded, but still, it induces a sad atmosphere. I think that this general setting contributed to the feeling of sadness.
- The prologue was really excellent. It contains all the premises of the main movie.
- One of the longest movies I have seen–almost three hours! But it did not make me sleep, fortunately.
- There is a lack of Tong’s realization phase when he came to a decision that he can’t be a boyfriend to Mew. With this, it is ironic that he dumped his girlfriend in favor of Mew.
- Although I concede to the fact that there is gay love story in the movie, it shouldn’t be branded as such. There are several plots that tackle different issues.
- My favorite part: Mew told Tong about his loneliness, his separation (This is paralleled with a scene wherein Tong’s mom was looking for him, also afraid of separation). Tong did not reply, instead, he said “Mew” and carefully wrapped his arms onto Mew’s shoulders :<. Don’t get me wrong, I’m straight, haha. It was just moving that this kind of platonic love could really exist. Moreover, that was Tong’s gesture of saying “Mew, I’m here..” :<
- The part wherein Sunee gave Tong the freewill to determine what’s best for him using two Christmas decorations (of course, a metaphor), he chose the boy piece over the girl piece. Arvin told me that this signifies that he would rather have a boy to love. BUT at the same time, it could signify that he would rather be a boy, a straight boy. Oh yeah, relativism and equivocal-ity sucks.
- The ending scenes are damn bitter-sweet. :/ The ending scenes seem to say: I’m a happy-ending love story! Wait for it! But to the viewer’s dismay, it wasn’t. Was it?
As Francis have said, there were no concrete closures among the characters. Moreover, the story is open-ended. One could ask: What could happen next? A familiar line is sung in some parts of the movie: As long as you love, there is still hope. You will love the movie if you would hope that Mew and Tong would eventually be together. Arvin told me that Tong might not be ready for it and Mew still has a career to consider. They might have the right love on the wrong time. Oh well. Sequel anyone? But for me, I believe that there’s nothing more to say. The director said that the movie is ended as it is. I believe that, sometimes, there’s no more to an end. There might be questions but the reality is, not all questions are answered. We must move on. I think we are just too idealistic, adhering to the social construction of all-fairy-tales-end-well-and-happy. That’s the magic of LoS, it presents you the bitter, sad reality but at the same time, giving you reasons why life is worth living for. :) ∞
If we can love someone so much, how will we be able to handle it the one day we are separated?And, if being separated is a part of life, and you know about separation well, is it possible that we can love someone and never be afraid of losing them?At the same time, I was also wondering, is it possible that we can live our entire life without loving anyone at all?That’s my loneliness.-Mew