Thai director Kongdej Jaturanrasmee was approached by the executive producer of musical phenomenon BNK48. The plan was to give the female pop idols some screen time in anything Jaturanrasmee could concoct. The girls are famous for their singing and dancing, but not as much for their acting abilities. But the handful of BNK48 members who were selected have done a pretty decent job.
Where We Belong‘s Jennis Oprasert is understated in her portrayal of the troubled Sue. She acts with her eyes, and the positioning of her head – often lowering her chin when Sue feels unsure of her future plans, or struggles to make herself understood in English. And yes, Sue speaks English rather fluently despite her hesitation. She is scheduled to move to Finland on a scholarship, if only she could get her father to sign the paperwork.
And so begins Sue’s last week in Thailand. Past wrongdoings must be undone. Letting go of a blossoming romance, and saying goodbye to her friends and family are part of Sue’s mental process. She isn’t so sure why she wants to leave Thailand so badly. It isn’t because Finland is her dream. So then why can’t she just fit in and stay true to her Thai upbringing? Where We Belong is introspective and slow-moving, but shows glimpses of true-to-life issues of Thai culture and generational differences.
Jaturanrasmee raises the question of how much the Thai people really own their own lives. Some of the rules don’t make much sense to cell phone toting teenagers. Their parents may appear to know best, but do they even know what their motivations are, or are they just following empty traditions? Sue is a symbol more than a protagonist. She seems to metaphorize the ideals stuck between past and future generations.
An interesting look at modern Thailand.
TOHO Cinemas, Roppongi Hills, 2:15 PM, November 1st, 2019 (Please note, screening times are in Japan Standard Time).
Tokyo International Film Festival: https://2019.tiff-jp.net/en