New Internationalist

Wonderful Town

Issue 420

Written and directed by Aditya Assarat

Wonderful Town: marvellous and profound post-Tsunami drama.

A young woman works in a quiet hotel in a sleepy Thai seaside town. She mops floors, airs rooms, hangs out washing and hovers around the reception desk. A young man checks in. He’s an architect, arriving from Bangkok to supervise a building scheme, and has an odd open-eyed look that seems frank but isn’t quite. It’s a conventional enough opening that seems to set the scene for a so-so love story. But the opening shots of the surging and slipping sea remind us of the 2004 Tsunami. Tourists, who had before then filled Na’s parents’ hotel, no longer come. Architect Ton, with too little to do at the building site, explores Tsunami-wrecked homes that the local builders tell him are haunted. And he seeks out Na. He hangs around as she unpegs washing on the hotel roof. He brings her sweet oranges. When they start to walk out together, people who’ve known Na all her life stop speaking to her.

Assarat’s drifting, evocative tale comes with a devastating climax that changes our perception of everything that’s come before, but is much more than a diversion with a twist in the tail. The film closes, as it opened, with shots of the sea and shifting flotsam. They frame the action, as does the Tsunami, but are unsettling, hypnotic, engulfing. Throughout, lingering takes confine people in rooms and architectural spaces. Assarat connects personal lives with natural and social forces – deftly and poetically. Everyone and everything is haunted. Lives drift, are washed up, left high and dry. A marvellous and profound film.

ML

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