Love of Siam (now available on DVDfrom Strand Releasing) opened in its home country of Thailand in 2007, and not only received near-universal critical acclaim but also became one of Thailand's all-time box office champs. It also won multiple awards at the Thai Oscars, the Thailand National Awards, and was their official submission to the 81st Academy Awards.
Such success was and remains rather surprising, given that the film primarily depicts a romance between two teenage boys. It helps that the boys in question are cute, and never more so than when wearing their schoolboy uniforms of blue shorts and white, short-sleeved dress shirts.
Tong is a quiet young man from a conservative Catholic family. He befriends his neighbor, Mew, after protecting him from homophobic bullies. Mew is musically gifted, and as he matures he becomes lead singer of an increasingly popular boy band. The two lose contact for a time when Tong's family moves away but are reunited several years later in Bangkok.
Mew and Tong initially remind one another of happier times before their families were impacted by losses but gradually grow closer. A nice visual metaphor for their relationship referenced throughout the film is a Christmas figurine missing its red nose. Although Tong isn't yet capable of expressing his feelings for Mew in words, they seal their love one night through a romantic backyard kiss. Unfortunately for them, the kiss is witnessed by Tong's domineering mother.
Love of Siam was written and directed by Matthew Chookiat Sakveerakul. As a coming of age story, the film is sweet and inoffensive (that kiss is the most graphic display of affection in the film) if overlong at 150 minutes and often melodramatic. The melodrama chiefly involves Tong's older sister, who went missing years before during a trip with friends, and his father's subsequent descent into alcoholism. While the storyline has the requisite teen angst to spare, it never feels heavy-handed.
The performances are above average all around and Mario Maurer, who plays Tong, is a particular find. He has poise and confidence seemingly beyond his young years. I don't know whether Maurer is a professional actor, but if not he should consider more training. Witwisit Hiranyawongkul, who plays Mew, is also very good and has a nice singing voice (assuming it actually is him singing on the soundtrack). Side note: there is a startling "crotch shot" of Hiranyawongkul on the DVD cover that makes it appear he has a full erection!
I wouldn't call Love of Siam a queer classic along the lines of Beautiful Thing or Brokeback Mountain but it does reinforce through its unique Thai lens many universal truths about love: same-sex, opposite-sex and parent-child.
Click here to watch the trailer for Love of Siam.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.