Director: Mez Tharatorn
Cast: "Ice" Preechaya Pongthananikorn, Sunny Suwanmethanont, Popetorn Soonthornyanakij
RunTime: 2 hrs 2 mins
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 22 January 2015
Synopsis: “Pleng” (Ice- Preechaya Pongthananikorn) is a charming and beautiful English tutor. Her ordinary life takes an unexpected turn when she is asked an extraordinary favor; to help one of her students dump her Thai boyfriend named “Gym” (Sunny Suwanmethanont). Unfortunately, Gym doesn’t understand English so Pleng’s student records her voice message and asks Pleng to translate her message to him.
When Gym realizes that he is being dumped, he pins blame on Pleng for his girlfriend leaving him being that Pleng taught his girlfriend the English to pass her US job interview. It is at that moment Gym persuades Pleng to teach him English too, hoping to go to the US to reconcile with his girlfriend. Pleng has reservations but agrees.
Gym’s English is very basic and he’s such a slow learner. He works as a maintenance engineer at a factory. Pleng does her best to teach him. She lets Gym read children books to get started. Gym tries very hard and Pleng sees his effort and begins to sympathize with him.
At the same time, Pleng has fallen in love with another one of her students, “Pruek” (Two- Popetorn Sunthornyanakij), a handsome guy from a good family. He is a hopeless romantic who always find the way to surprise Pleng and eventually they become a couple. “I Fine..Thank you..Love You” is a grammatically incorrect love story that illustrates the beauty of imperfection over perfection.
Here’s one thing we’ve learnt about love from ‘I Fine… Thank You… Love You’ – you don’t need to speak the same language to be in love with someone, so long as you can communicate with that person through sex. And here’s another thing we’ve learnt – once you’ve spoken to someone in that language, you’ll be pretty much willing to do anything just to be able to talk to that someone in the same way again. In director Mez Tharaton’s new movie, that is exactly what motivates maintenance engineer Yim (Sunny Suwanmethanon) to pick up the English language, just so he may have a chance to be sent to the States and along with that to be reunited with his Japanese girlfriend (played by Japanese AV star Sora Aoi).
The person Yim hedges his bets with just happens to be Pleng (Preechaya Pongthananikorn), his ex-girlfriend’s materialistic English tutor who had agreed to help her break up with Yim for a shiny new Louis Vuitton handbag. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Yim will, through the course of his language lessons with Pleng, fall in love with the young and beautiful tutor, who also happens to be the poster girl of her language centre and the target of a seemingly much more eligible suitor, Pruek (Two- Popetorn Sunthornyanakij). We don’t for a moment buy their animosity at the beginning; indeed, their antagonists-turned-lovers narrative is quite a familiar one in the rom-com genre’s playbook, and Tharaton, who co-wrote the movie, largely plays by the rules in the storytelling department.
Yet there must certainly be something else in this slick GTH rom-com offering that has enabled it to not only become one of 2014’s biggest local hits but also since then the number one rom-com of all time in its home territory. To be sure, some of its appeal will surely be lost on any audience who doesn’t understand the film’s native tongue, as a good part of its humour stems from Yim’s poor grasp of English and his concomitant tendency to misinterpret phrases and sentences spoken in that language as something aurally similar in Thai but utterly ridiculous in meaning. Thankfully, Tharaton doesn’t simply rely on linguistic puns for laughs; instead, ‘I Fine… Thank You… Love You’ actually plays as one of the best screwball comedies we’ve seen in a long while, propelled by the excellent chemistry between its lead stars.
Just as an action movie revolves around telling a story around various setpieces, Tharaton sets the romance between Pleng and Yim around a number of well-staged gags. The prologue leading up to the opening credits is one such example – Pleng simulates the drill where an airplane is about to crash among a group of young children, complete with exaggerated mannerisms and all, while Tharaton’s camera moves in a deliberate fashion to simulate the steep drops for his audience’s point of view. Our lead couple’s meet-cute encounter is the next such setpiece, the first of many scenes in and outside a Coffee Bean outlet where Pleng and Yim meet for their lessons, where Yim interrupts a tearful parting message from his girlfriend played over Pleng’s laptop with a sharp and hilarious retort. It is at this same place that Yim would teach a teenage schoolboy he catches for taking an underskirt photo of Pleng a painful but mostly embarrassing lesson. Some of the verbal gags survive the linguistic barrier though, including Yim’s pronunciation of the letters of the alphabet, but largely it is the screwball antics between the couple that will leave you in stitches.
Admittedly, the two-hour film does lose some momentum as it tries to get serious in the latter half. Tharaton paints the class differences between Pleng and Pruek as the reason for their mismatch, but the divide – nor a recurring analogy about moles (yes, the ones you find on your face) and destiny - aren’t as convincing as they ought to be. Ditto for Yim’s bumbling housemate (played by So Cool’s Joke) as well as his girlfriend, whom we are supposed to believe has a longstanding rivalry with Yim; a particular scene which is supposed to establish this, after Yim discovers that his housemate had given a key of their apartment to his girlfriend, feels forced and ultimately falls flat. Despite its ostensible flaws, the film is held together by Sunny and Ice Preechaya – the former never overdoing its cool get-up at the start before revealing a softer and more sensitive side later on; and the latter a vivacious complement both earnest and effervescent – whose excellent rapport gives each and every one of their scenes together that added zing.
It’s no wonder then that their comedy has endeared the hearts of many back in Thailand, and even though some bits will inevitably be lost on an audience who can’t recognise the aural similarities but meaningful differences between the two languages, ‘I Fine… Thank You… Love You’ remains a mighty fine enjoyable rom-com that should transcend any language barrier. It is a farce no doubt, but one that isn’t afraid to be fun, sweet and silly at the same time; that, and the indelible chemistry between its lead stars, is why you’ll find its appeal to be universal.
(Sweet, funny and affecting, this screwball rom-com farce is ‘I Fine’, ‘Thank You’ to the cast, and a sheer delight that you will ‘Love You’)
Review by Gabriel Chong