If you’ve ever seen Thai television, then you might expect a Thai romantic comedy to be over the top in every way. But while Love in the Rain has its share of unrequited-love filled drama, it is actually a cinematically restrained example of the genre.
Slightly too dramatic.
Director Worrawech Danuwong (Dan) – in only his second outing in the director’s chair – also shows a restrained hand with the comedy. He keeps comedian Chalermpon Thikumporn-teerawong (Koong) – in his first significant movie role – on a tight leash, and in fact there’s only one brief moment of out-and-out slapstick comedy early in the film.
The result is a relatively understated and thoughtful rumination on love and loneliness. I say relatively understated, because there are, perhaps for Western tastes (at least for mine, anyway), one too many lonely walks in the rain as the soundtrack pours out a typical Thai ballad of unrequited love and heartbreak. Or one too many walks in the rain arm-in-arm as the soundtrack pours out a typical Thai pop song about how grand love is, about how it’s the end-all and be-all of all things.
Yuck. But then it is a romantic comedy. And fortunately for the viewer these one-too-many moments only come near the end of the film and in the larger scheme of things, don’t detract at all from an otherwise tightly-scripted, evenly-paced and well-acted film.
Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall
I can’t help but wonder if Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had been thinking of Thailand when he wrote his poem Rainy Day. Or if Danuwong – who also wrote and stars in the film, along with his directing it – has ever read the poem by the American author. Some in Thailand believe that the rainy season brings love; others lonliness, and this idea is central to Danuwong’s film, as the title tells us.
Rain is clearly a symbol here; like rain falling, love sometimes happens when we least expect it (and when it’s inconvenient). Like rain, sometimes love can leave us cold and lonely. But then sometimes love – like rain – can force us closer together; at other times we can enjoy the rain because we wish to be alone with our thoughts and feelings – just like times when we’re falling in love. Finally, sometimes, like rain, we just have to patiently wait for love to come along.
These are all ideas Love in the Rain explores within the interactions of two love triangles – one consists of Kong, Nara (played by Nara Thepnupha) and Daisy (played by Toni Rakkaen); the other consists of Daisy, Jan (played by XXXXX) and Jan’s ex-boyfriend.
What’s real and what’s not?
Schoolboy Koong has his first crush on Nara, but schoolgirl Nara has a big crush on hair dresser Daisy. Daisy, meanwhile is in love with Jan – a customer who only comes to his shop when it rains – but Jan still has mixed emotions over her ex-boyfriend.
How does Danuwong’s character fit into all this? Well first off, his character is never named in the film; Koong just calls him his older brother, so we’ll just call him Dan. Dan is in love with … well, the viewer is left to make up their own minds about his otherworldly paramour. Is she really a ghost that haunts him? A spooky woman from his past that he’s met before and yearns for now? A vision of a woman he hasn’t met yet? Danuwong and Life in the Rain never make it clear.
But then it just wouldn’t be a Thai movie without a hint of ghosts and the supernatural, now would it?
This lingering question – is she real or what? – is another example of Danuwong’s light touch in terms of writing and directing. It’s also a credit to him that this part of the story is so deftly woven in with the other elements, and doesn’t feel tacked on or extraneous to the rest of the plot.
As Koon’s “phi chai” (elder brother), Dan serves as Koong’s foil, the thoughtful and introspective older guy to Koong’s self-conscious, bumbling and comedic self who can never get the girl. In some ways, with the object of his affections only someone – or something – who comes to visit him sometimes in the rain (of course), he’s a foil to the rest of the cast, whose paramours and would-be paramours are all too real, with real human hangups and foibles. While the rest of the cast pursue the objects of their affection, Dan sits back, strums his guitar, composes music, and waits for her and the rain.
So, do the boys get the girls, in the end, and vice versa? Well I’m certainly not going to spoil it for you, but I will say again: it is a romantic comedy, after all. But Danuwong does have a bit of a surprise at the ending, one that’s again a credit to his writing skill: once the surprise is sprung, the viewer is likely to be thinking “Of course! I should have seen it all along.” Indeed, clever viewers will see it coming, although like the rest of the film, this part of the plot is carefully understated – you’ll have to pay close attention.
Love in the Rain (Reu-do-tee-chan-ngao) is currently playing at Major Cineplex cinemas throughout Thailand.
By Jeff Chappel.