"People come to the beach for one of two reasons, quips a character in Dear Dakanda, to escape heat or to escape love. For the films protagonist Moo (Sunny Suwanmethanont) whom we see in the first five minutes getting a makeover haircut and hopping on the next train to southern Thailand, it is for the latter. In a strange turn of events, he breaks his leg and ends up in a local hospital where he meets a sweet nurse named Nui (Maneerat Kamuan). The two become close but it is obvious that Moo still loves his best friend Dakanda (Sirapan Wattanajinda), to whom he regularly writes letters. From this point forward, a film with such a promising start begins looking lost.
Instead of focusing on how romantic love develops from friendship, the flashback scenes of Moo and Dakanda often get sidetracked with too many comic reliefs and an episode in which Moo becomes jealous of Dakanda, and the audience is left assuming that Moo falls in love with Dakanda at first sight and never changes. The story between Moo and Nui is more well-developed because we learn how Nui grows to like Moo through their daily interactions. However, I have hoped that more screen time would be diverted from hospital and drawing-on-the-beach scenes to delve deeper into the thin line between romantic and platonic relationships.
Never mind the weak plot, a wonderful direction by Komgrit Trivimol makes Dear Dakanda flow smoothly in and out of flashbacks and Dakanda and Nui almost seem like the same person (particularly in the climax scene in which Komgrit juxtaposes the past and present). In the style of Komgrits previous (group) effort My Girl, Dear Dakanda employs classic pop songs and a rural setting to evoke a sense of nostalgia.
Another major pitfall of Dear Dakanda is acting. While My Girl also featured an entirely new cast, Komgrit should have opted for more experienced actors because the story in Dear Dakanda deals with a more complicated issue than a puppy love. The plot really demands Moo to battle, not one but two, internal dilemmas: one is whether to risk losing a best friend by revealing his true feeling or maintain a platonic relationship while suppressing his desire inside, and two is whether to stay with Nui who loves him or to go back to Dakanda whom he loves. This role is simply too challenging for any first-time actor and Moos character just feels empty. Both Sirapan and Maneerat have less challenging tasks as Dakanda and Nui respectively, but they still appear to be reciting lines rather than performing them.
Better performances actually come from the supporting cast, such as Nurse Tan (Panisara Pimpru) whose mere presence can even command laughter from the audience, the ambiguously gay Fu Yen (Thanabadin Yongsuepchart) whose bark is worse than his bite, and the tourist couple whose sale skill only reminds us of some certain telemarketers.
All in all, Dear Dakanda is an entertaining film and a better comedy than many, but still a disappointing romantic film.