Apart from the eponym, Nithiwat Tharathorn’s second solo directorial effort, Dear Galileo, bears the remotest relation to the titular 17th century Italian scientist, and none of his worldview-changing wisdom.
Set in the present day, the movie recounts two Thai college girls’ peripatetic expatriate lives in Europe. Cherry (Chutima Teepanat) and Noon (Jarinporn Joonkiat) take a year off from their studies to explore London, Paris, and Venice. But in reality both are running from their problems at home: Cherry has been put on probation for an academic misconduct, and Noon heartbroken by her long-time boyfriend. Unbeknownst to them, however, is that old troubles don’t disappear by themselves and that new problems, and new love interest, await them in the new land.
Despite the potential, Dear Galileo misses so many opportunities to be a profound coming-of-age drama for today’s digital-age generation.
While the plot touches on several themes—broadening one’s horizons, confronting one’s past, and learning to accept life’s consequences as an inevitable part of growing up—it delves more into the petty fights between the two girls and the unpretty side of illegally living abroad—the deportation fear, the unfriendly locals, and the low-paying jobs that make ends meet. But both of these problems are magically resolved by the end, and the two protagonists never seem to have grown up any more than when we find them at the beginning of the movie.
Cherry is put on academic probation for forging a professor’s signature to use a drawing room, which she insists she is not wrong and likens the harsh judgment to the Galileo’s trial by the Catholic Church for his advocacy of heliocentrism (a ludicrous comparison, I’d say). But by the end, the situation regresses into insignificance, Cherry remains firm in her belief, and life goes on just fine. Nothing learned.
Topping it off, instead of a myriad of colorful characters to dispense life’s wisdom, the movie offers us Pisit (Ray McDonald), a pedantic sort-of-bohemian who sounds more self-righteous than wise and who spends most of his screen time playing Noon’s new love interest rather than a mentor seasoned in carpe diem. Like Cherry, Noon has not changed one bit, as if the traveling and the new romance have not taught her anything about love.
What could have happened are discussions on right and wrong, love and loss, dream and reality, making own decisions and living someone else’s life—all are relevant topics to the movie’s target audience, and all can be seamlessly weaved into the plot.
What makes Dear Galileo bearable, or even enjoyable, is utterly superficial: the three leads are good-looking people in beautiful, romantic places. Their on screen chemistry is pitch perfect, and their charms just spill over from the screen to the viewers.
But little else is on the plate, not even the Parisian splendor. And for a movie with all the right elements to be thoughtful vehicle for the young and budding minds, this is certainly a disappointment.