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PLOY (Thailand)

  Publicity Stills of "Ploy"
(Courtesy of Shaw)

Genre: Drama/Romance
Director: Pen-ek Ratanaruang
Cast: Lalita Panyopas, Pornwut Sarasin, Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Phorntip Papanai, Ananda Everingham
RunTime: 1 hr 47 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: R21 (Sexual Scenes)

Opening Day: 23 April 2009


Every relationship has an expiry date. Every relationship needs its fantasies… some more real than others…

A violent death of a relative brings Wit and his wife, Dang, back to Bangkok from America, for the first time in 7 years. As soon as they arrive in Bangkok at 5:30am, Wit and Dang checked into a posh hotel downtown.  

Upon reaching their room, Wit noticed that he is out of cigarettes and heads to the lobby bar to get some. After getting his pack of cigarettes, Wit decided to have a cup of coffee and have a smoke at the bar.

While Wit was having his coffee, he was approached by a girl who emerges from a dark corner of the bar. She asked if she can borrow his lighter and also for a cigarette… Soon, the two engaged in a conversation and the girl’s name is Ploy.

This is how our little tale of love and jealousy begins. A highly detailed psychological drama with three strangers locked inside one hotel room. It starts with subtle suspicions and builds up to overwhelming jealousy, The appearance of a young woman triggers the underlying issues and intense relationship of the couple, who suddenly realized how they had grown apart in their seven-year marriage, before it reaches a devastating climax.

In the final act, the couple faced the choice of going separate ways or to embrace their differences and start their relationship anew.

Movie Review:

If you are a fan of Thai director Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s previous films, then you would probably enjoy his latest work. The filmmaker behind arthouse pictures like Last Life in the Universe (2001) and Invisible Waves (2006) is back to enthrall audiences with his indie surrealistic style of making movies. If you are a fan of Thai movies which involve violent Muay Thai boxing, scary vengeful spirits or campy transexuals, then it is best that you avoid this one because you don’t want to end up cursing and swearing by the whole seemingly ridiculous plot setup.

A couple returns home to Thailand for the first time in seven years to attend a funeral. The man befriends a young girl in a bar and brings her back to his hotel room, where his wife is apparently drained from the jetlag. Love and jealousy come into the picture as the trio becomes suspicious of each other’s presence in the hotel room. In the next room, another couple is exploring love through sex. What do these people in common that will ultimately bind them together? What was going through the man’s mind when he decided to bring the young girl back to the hotel room? What were the wife’s intentions when she decided to smother the young girl with a clean white pillow? What were the stranger couple’s thoughts when they were making love to each other next door?

All these questions and more will continue to linger in your mind long after you leave the theatre. And such is the power of Ratanaruang’s unique filmmaking style.

The 107 minute drama may play out as a psychological thriller (the poster tells us that it is erotic, sensual and thrilling – what more can we say?), but it is anything more than that. The chillingly bare cinematography nicely complements the stark loneliness experienced by the characters. The notion of love having an expiry date (Wong Kar Wai, anyone?) is constantly being questioned by the characters in several ways. The subject matter of what’s real and what’s imagined around us is a recurring theme here. You know it takes nothing less than an arthouse flick to address these issues, and you should know better then to go into the cinema expecting a showy display of Thailand’s colourful culture.

The bare camera direction by Chankit Chamnivikaipong (who also worked on Rataaruang’s Transistor Love Story in 2001) and the minimal original music score by Hualampong Riddim (Me… Myself) and Koichi Shimizu (Wonderful Town) are enough to show that you don’t need fancy visuals and dramatic underscores to bring out the naked emotions of human beings.

Leading actress Lalita Panyopas plays the exhausted wife, and having worked with the director previously in 6ixtynin9 (1999), she grapples the tormented and conflicted character with ease. One cannot help but empathize with what she is going through. If there is one thing eye catching about the film which premiered during the Director’s Fortnight at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, it would be Apinya Sakuljaroensuk’s (4bia) Afro hairdo. The teenage girl’s who plays the titular Ploy has a unique image somewhat overshadows her underrated performance. And everyone’s favourite Thai heartthrob Ananda Everingham (The Leap Years) has a supporting role of a bartender which will make you sit up and watch – simply because his lovemaking scenes with a hotel maid are so uncomfortably desolate, you can’t help but question the perception of love in this commercialised world.

Movie Rating:

(Watch this satisfying arthouse film if you want to challenge your intellect. Or if you are an Ananda fan)

Review by John Li


. The Leap Years (2008)

. Pleasure Factory (2007)

. Bangkok Love Story (2007)

. Me...Myself (2007)

. Invisible Waves DVD (2005)

. Ghost House DVD (2008)

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