You probably saw that coming, but it won’t matter.
Thai filmmaker Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s latest could laxly be described as Dial M for Murder railroaded by a comedy of errors, but that wouldn’t ascribe much to the surrealist upheavals that are really Samui Song’s backbone.
Soap star Viyada (Laila Boonyasak), married to feckless millionaire (Stephane Sednaoui), wants out. The appearance of hitman Guy (David Asavanond) offers a solution to her ever again having to contend with her husband, or his obsession with a mysterious cult lead by a charismatic figure (Vithaya Pansingram).
Deftly establishing our small cast of players with something as simple as one asking another for cigarettes or the smallest of initial interactions between wife and husband, Samui Song really hits its stride in the second act when the ill-concealed antecedents of our hitman become all to readily known. With Asavanond emerging as the most memorable addition and largely carrying the comedic bent, the film errs to a great degree when it departs in tone and narrative at the commencement of the third act, save an incidentally hilarious encounter with a laundry delivery.
Boonyasaki, alternately couched in her television persona and her real-life travails traverses an uncommonly creative, nuanced style of storytelling. Situating us in fictively enveloping worlds, it’s a pleasant surprise to discover, or surmise, what is real and what is not. The ‘gotcha’ moments, which thankfully are never overplayed at these crucial instances, are nonetheless only a few of Samui Song’s most intriguing aspects on which the film does not wholly rest its impact.
And then there’s that ending. You may have (and likely did) see it coming but it is of little consequence. A thought-provoking turn which duly invites repeat viewings and reflections on several newly-relevant sequences, Samui Song is an altogether engaging thriller with some traditional and very non-traditional innovations.
Samui Song screened as part of the Sydney Film Festival