Having seen James & Bella in action in Padivarada and enjoyed their couple chemistry together, I wanted to check out if there were more shows with them as main leads and found this one. However, having then discovered that this was Story #3 in a 5-part series, I was a little bit hesitant because gosh, did that mean that I have to go through his first 2 brother's stories first before I could watch this? I was not willing to really invest all that time.
Well, after doing a little bit more reading and finding this article on MyDramaList about the "Gentlemen of Chuthatep" series [http://mydramalist.com/article/2014/06/22/thai-lakorns-recommendations-part-two], I decided to take a chance and plunge straight into Brother #3 and see if I can somehow find my way and make sense of the situation. And I'm glad I did because I did not get too lost after all and was able to enjoy this show on its own - yippee!
So, for those who are thinking of watching this without the benefit of watching the earlier 2 shows of the series, IT IS POSSIBLE. Just do a bit of reading of the article I've mentioned and also of the synopsis of the first 2 brothers (so that you roughly know their names and their partners), and you'll be all ready to go!
What I'm going to say here are NOT spoilers at all (because they are background info and also relate to the first 2 brother's stories and so if you've come after watching those, you won't be spoiled in the slightest), but for those jumping into this show without watching the first 2, this will help give some context.
Basically, this "Gentleman of Chuthatep" series reminds me very much of my old regency romance-novel reading days (Jude Deveraux anyone?) where the authors really enjoyed writing a series of books based on brothers (sometimes also cousins) of old, aristocratic and noble families who are not only immensely well-connected and established in society, but are also incredibly powerful and wealthy and whose male members all have devastating good looks. These authors would dedicate an entire romance novel for each of the brothers in the family which makes for really compelling and addictive reading.
Well, here is the live-action version of that! Set in the 1950s, the "Gentleman of Chuthatep" series comprises of 5 separate dramas (each about 10 or 11 episodes long), with each drama focusing on the romance of one out of the 5 brothers of the Chuthatep family who are, as you've probably already guessed, part of the old established Thai nobility class. So, all 5 brothers are not only blue-bloods of their society but they are also blessed with good-looks, success in their individual careers, and an immense reservoir of funds (i.e. very very rich) courtesy of their prestigious lineage.
All 5 brothers lost their parents rather early in their lives and were brought up by their grandmothers. Grandma Aied is the matriarch of the family while Grandma Oon is her younger sister. Before their father had died, he had promised to have one of his sons marry one of the daughters of another noble family - the Taewaproms (3 daughters). Cue massive familial pressure on the 5 brothers!
As of timeframe of this show, the first 2 brothers (Chai Yai, the eldest; and Chai Ruj, the second eldest) are already engaged or married - but none of them to any of the Taewaprom girls. So, here is Chai Pat who is son #3, under immense pressure from his grandmothers to fulfil his late father's promise.
This show, of course, showcases Chai Pat's own romance story and it comes as no surprise that it was going to be an interesting ride when his love interest is also not a Taewaprom girl, but actually a girl belonging to a lower class of society.
The familial conflicts arising from this is probably already enough to fill the show but there is an added layer of complexity and action when the girl - Krongkaew (aka Kaew), daughter of a high school janitor and having to live hand-to-mouth for survival - wins the Miss Thailand beauty contest and also incites the interest of an old and lecherous but wealthy and powerful man. So, this is a morass of all sorts of issues and situations which the couple must navigate before they can get their happy ending. Sounds interesting? If so, then this might be the show for you.
I'm glad to say that despite all the complicated issues arising, the show doesn't allow those issues to side-track our attention on the main couple too much. There are, in my opinion, a sufficiently good number of scenes of the couple, from their first meeting to their subsequent interactions which build on their budding interest in each other, which then blossom into love. I thought it was a well-balanced show as a result - strong directorial hand, with good editing and cuts that move the situations along swiftly and keep the pace brisk.
As with most Thai lakorns, the second female lead and the main antagonist will probably come across as pretty one-note i.e. hateful, annoying, despicable. You have to get used to it (if you're not), and move swiftly along. Having said that though, I do confess that they are not as overdone as some others which I've seen. Yes, they are pretty over-the-top, but I've seen a lot worse.
The 4 brothers did have some screen-time, especially the 2 youngest and unmarried ones (Chai Lek and Chai Pee). I really liked the fact that the family dynamic amongst the 5 brothers were not ones full of envy, jealousy or dislike, but was in fact warm, loving, supportive and playful at times. So nice to see the brotherly camaraderie on show here.
The 2 grandmothers... Grandma Aied was the epitome of a matriarch of a royal and noble family. She exuded class, poise and authority befitting her status. I liked that while she was keen to advance and fulfil the promise made by her late son, she was also the more reasonable and open-minded of the two. Grandma Oon, on the other hand, is one who is quick to judge, quick to be prejudiced, and quick to disdain, which at times really makes her quite dis-likable.
Onto the main leads:-
BELLA as Krongkaew, daughter of a janitor and a Miss Sri Siam. Great casting choice, in my opinion, because Bella is really believeable in her portrayal as a poor, humble but hard-working and principled person who is also beautiful enough to win a beauty pageant. There is an elegant nobleness in her posture and in her mien which lends much to the personality of her character here. Her smiles come across warm, and her dark doe-eyes are able to convey the feelings of sadness, anxiety, care and love wonderfully. There are quite a few key scenes where Kaew had to express her feelings with her eyes alone, and I thought Bella rose to the occasion incredibly. A good actress who truly fitted her role here.
JAMES as Khun Chai Puttipat, from the royal house of Chuthatep and a brain surgeon. James looked a little bit too youthful here to be such an established brain surgeon but I suppose his spectacles helped to give him a more serious and professional look. But his youthful look has some advantages - they give him a more friendly and softer look so his scenes as a stern and strict doctor did not come across as too cold or unapproachable (which good doctors should not be). And they also made his loving gazes and warm smiles so much more mesmerising. James' eyes, are, to me, his greatest asset, really, because they are not only large enough that even the viewer feels as though they could drown in them, but they are also able to bring out some of his emotions and feelings onto the screen. For a debut series, I have to admit that I am well impressed with James' acting here.
Most importantly for me, James and Bella had good chemistry together which makes this couple come across as very compatible and believable. Their interactions and scenes together not only seem natural and organic, but I also felt that their on-screen characters as Chai Pat and Kaew matched each other well. They each complete one another in different ways and as a Chai Pat/ Kaew couple, they both complement each other by filling a void or adding colour to each other's lives or teaching each other to grow and change for the better, through their different personalities. It does come across as a match between equals here - love it!
The "Gentlemen of Chuthatep" theme song ('True Loves Stands The Test Of Time') is on constant play in between advert breaks which makes the song go round and round in the brain for days. If you like it, that's great, but if not, well, too bad. It's rather hypnotic, really and I'm still of two minds if I liked it or not.
Other than that, the theme songs for this couple is lovely - well, at least I liked it. I thought it told of the couple's situation and feelings, particularly Chai Pat's, spot on. Lends more depth to some of the scenes.
Background music is rather old-school and fitting for the time period in which this series is set, so I thought it very appropriate and sets the mood and style of the show.
Edit: I did not realise that each of the brother's shows have different versions by different artists of the same Suparburoot Chuthatep theme song - 'True Love Stands The Test Of Time'. What a lovely surprise and find. Am really liking the different versions and renditions now.
Since I like this couple and their interactions and development, this show is eminently re-watchable. But will probably skip on the extraneous scenes where neither are present.
Overall, a true romance series with your sprinkling of drama.