Director: Atta Hemwadee
Cast: Anthony “Tony” Buisseret, Pisitpol “Jump” Ekaphongpisit, Thitiya “Baipor” Jirapornsilp, Tanakorn Tiyanont, Natticha Chantaravareelekha
Runtime: 2 hrs 10 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Sexual References)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 30 November 2023
Synopsis: Have you ever had a close friend whom you still think about all these years later? ‘Pae’, a twelfth grader facing parental pressure to take the entrance exam for admission to a prestigious university. When he learns that a renowned university offers a direct submission option, requiring students to create and submit a short film for consideration, inspiration strikes. Pae decides to craft a short film centered around ‘Joe’, his late deskmate who tragically passed away in an accident. His hope is that a poignant tale of a lost friend will resonate with and impress the university admission committees. However, it isn't as easy as Pae initially thought, since he doesn't have any knowledge about filmmaking at all. Moreover, he faces another challenge in the form of ‘Bokeh’, Joe's true friend, who volunteers to help him with the short film. And so, the filmmaking mission begins with Pae's future at stake, aided by a group of nerds from the audiovisual club. Eventually, the short film project gains recognition across the entire school, and Pae finds himself under pressure from Joe's family to deliver a satisfactory film about their beloved son. However, this project leads them to uncover a secret that Joe had hidden from them, a revelation that threatens to change their perspective on their dear departed friend forever.
Thoughts: What would it take for you to achieve your goals? How does one value friendships and relationships? And how far would you go?
Not Friends is about Pae, who decided to create a short film based on his late friend’s life as a way to get a direct entry to an acclaimed university amidst parental pressure, only to realise that not only does he not know much about his friend, but also face the pressure of his late friend’s actual best friend, the school’s excitement over the short film, and a secret that would change the course of things.
Reading up on the synopsis got me really curious about the film, the storyline and how it will all play out. The fact that the creative team of Bad Genius came up with this made me even more excited to know more, since the predecessor was a box office hit and an amazingly well-crafted film.
Upon watching the film, I felt a little perplexed about where I stand, as I was not sure if I liked the film or not.
The plot of the film seem to be simplistic and possibly straightforward, yet you are taken into a much, much deeper world. Yet, it felt like the director and producers were also not fully on board and made the viewing process a little choppy at times.
There were multiple twists in the plot and although a few of the twists were plausibly familiar and similar to other films of similar genre, they seem to blend in quite well with the storyline and was rather impactful in the storytelling. Themes like the notion and definition of friendship, character, relationships and life and death are explored to quite an extent and boosted the storyline a little.
The cast did well with their convincing performance that included a repertoire of humour, drama and action, while churning out believable and steady character development. The music choice for the film is appropriate and outstanding.
Yet, even with such nuances, the film still did not have the impact that it was intending to make and somehow it felt a little short of expectations. It felt like somehow, there was a void within and it feels like it is nor completely filled.
While the film generally was pleasant and enjoyable, it lack a certain kind of ‘X Factor’ that other films of similar genre have. Combined with several questionable gaps in the storyline and unrealistic, the struggle (of direction) between comedy and drama is real. It could be that it was meant to be fun and light-hearted, but it strangely also wanted to be slightly serious.
Overall, Not Friends seems to be a youthful trip down memory lane and it tries hard to relate and tap into your younger self, but does not fully come on board and leaves you feeling bittersweet and slightly emotional, yet a little slightly unsatisfied.
(An easygoing film with unexpected deep themes, but with a slight lack of proper conclusion and direction. You might want to consider this for the weekday instead)
Review by Ron Tan