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Oops! There's Dad    (Ruthaiwan Wongsirasawad, 2005)
 

Anchalee Chaiworaporn                             31July 2005

  All Rights Reserved.
 

The sequel to Piak Poster's wildly popular 1970s Wai Olawon was much anticipated however first-time director Ruthaiwan Wongsirasawad has produced a seemingly lackluster film with the debut of 30 years Later. Fans of Wai Olawon will delight in the original and simple presentation of 30 years Later and may approve of the use and adaptation of the soundtrack, however they would be somewhat disappointed with the film as a whole. Its minimalist approach may alienate viewers who want big fun they once had in the earlier versions.

The popular protagonists Tum and Oh were first introduced to the audience in 1976, when Wai Olawon became a smash hit. At first, commercial distribution was difficult, due mainly to the presence of then unknown lead actors. Piak Poster insisted upon his choice of actors and as a result is considered as a director who consistently pushed the boundaries of Thai cinema. In the 1970 film Tone (A Man Called Tone), Piak presented a confronting story of a rape victim-something seldom tackled even in contemporary Thai culture. In Choo (Adultery), the heroine is an unfaithful wife who commits adultery against her husband. In Wai Olawon, Piak cast a tanned, slim boy opposite an overweight girl as the leading roles. The sequels Rak Uttalud and Chuen Chulamun also departed from casting norms and were successful in that they too appealed to the youth audience. The series finale witnessed Tum and Oh settling into married life.

The sequel 30 Years Later was directed by newcomer, Ruthaiwan Wongsirasawad, an executive in one of the countrys biggest advertising agency JW Thomson. The film attempts to deal with complex issues such as romance, identity and gender, premarital love affair, within the familial unit. The characters of Tum and Oh are now parents and in part the film is as much about their dealings with the children and each other, as it is about their children experiencing the rites of passage important to young adulthood. Ruthaiwan herself is similar in age to the central characters and is also the mother of teenagers, this enables her to bring a sense of realism to the film. The depth of the characters and the interplay between generations within the film can also be attributed to the vast amount of personal experience Ruthaiwan is able to channel.

However while the characters have been displayed in a more humanist way, there remains persistent problems within the narrative itself. Tum and Oh are unable to depart from their modes of behavior exhibited in Wai Olawon and Tum clearly has parental issues when dealing with both of his children. There is an inability to function within the familial unit that would, in retrospect, have enabled Ruthaiwan greater control over the characters and their inter-relationships.

Aesthetically, Ruthaiwan relies upon a minimalist approach. It is simplistic, especially with the use of atmosphere and storyline. 30 Year Later contains no hidden surprises and no sudden plot changes and this works surprising well in maintaining a sense of voyeurism on the part of the audience. However this approach might disappoint both the former fans and the new-generation audiences who have come to expect more fun and laughter from what is touted as a comedy of sorts. The soundtrack however is a particular highlight. It is evocative and lends itself adequately to the film. Songs such as Choowab, Choowab; are frequently used, either in original form or adapted into a musical score.

Personally, I liked the film. It provides a voyeuristic glimpse into modern life and indeed, the audience leaves with a sense that they have glimpsed a chapter in Tum and Oh's life. Tum and Oh were able to recognize and accept their own children's choices and life continued much the same way it had previously. Whilst 30 Years Later wont be considered to be a masterpiece of contemporary Thai cinema, it is still somewhat entertaining and can offer some insight into the complexities of modern life. Audiences will still rejoice in the return of their old pop idols. As a new director Ruthaiwan is certainly bound to remain one to watch.

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Thirty Years Later and Still Young at Heart

  Sorradithep Supachanya                             4 August 2005
   
 

Like its three Wai Olawon (unofficially titled The Turbulent Years in English) prequels, Thirty Years Later (known in Thai as Wai Olawon 4) continues to be a safe and enjoyable family film, packed with plenty of humor and heartwarming tales for everyone.

Capturing what it is like to raise teenagers in this fast-changing world of 2005, the film starts with Tum (Piroj Sunworibut) and Oh (Lalana Sulawan) taking a road trip to surprise their daughter Baitong (Kanungnit Jaksitthanond) at her college dormitory, not knowing that they will be the one being surprised when they find out that she has long been sharing the room with her boyfriend Wichan (Rangsit Sirananond). Also along for the ride are Aor (Jirawadee Isarankura na Ayudhya), Ohs older sister who commits to being a backseat driver and driving Tum nuts, and Namtoey (Wisit Pongsopha), the youngest son whose behavior raises suspicion about his sexual orientation.

As with most family films, Thirty Years Later has a predictable plot: mom and dad find out their daughters secret and freak out, then they act on instinct and create more problems between them and their daughter and between themselves, but in the end everything works out and the whole family hugs one another in a tear-jerking scene. Meanwhile, every moment seems to have a place for a catchy soundtrack.

Never mind the formula, this film is still pleasant to see. Its direction is simple but effective. The story flows at a perfect pace with good use of flashbacks and that catchy song to switch on specific emotions in the audience. All the jokes and even cheesy one-liners are appropriately timed. As such, it is astonishing that Thirty Years Later is Ruthaiwan Wongsirasawats first directorial effort.

Perhaps drawing from their own experience or having the benefit of the audience knowing their characters from the prequels, Piroj and Lalana give flawless performances with such perfect chemistry that the audience can truly believe that Tum and Oh have actually lived on after we last saw them on screen. The younger generation, however, needs improvement. Kanungnit delivers a decent performance for a first-time actor, but her Baitong character comes across a little too one-dimensional. Wisits Namtoey is too boring and Rangsits Wichan too bland.

My biggest problem with Thirty Years Later is that it tries to bank on nostalgia too much. It uses well-known songs from the prequels in an effort to woo the older audience but hires pop singers to do cover versions in an effort to woo the younger audience. I was hoping for original material. Also, the film reenacts the iconic dance scene from the second Wai Olawon installment, but it does not seem to lead to anything.

My other problem with this film is that it deals with homosexuality too superficially. As such topic becomes more opened in Thai society, the films writer has apparently decided to make the character of Aor a lesbian (no hints were given in the prequels) and to make the audience wonder a little about Namtoeys gender preference. Neither subplots really serve a purpose in the overall storyline and the topic is never discussed or elaborated. If the film cannot give enough attention to these serious contemporary elements, I feel that they should really be set aside.

All in all, Thirty Years Later is a funny and pleasant film for the whole family to enjoy. I would love to see more sequels from this Wai Olawon series and even hope that it becomes a television series in order to explore more issues of todays urban family. Perhaps, the next installment can be in the style of Father of the Bride with Tum and Oh coping with their daughters marriage. I can already imagine what a circus that would be.

   
   

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