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Once Upon a Time
36 people found this review helpful
Aug 11, 2017
Overall 3.0
Story 3.0
Acting/Cast 5.0
Music 4.0
Rewatch Value 1.0
After having watched it, I can understand why this movie is receiving a lot of flak from its viewers.

As a stand-alone movie, the way the story was told was choppy and incoherent - there was often little connection from one scene to the next, and from one character's actions to the next, so the viewer is often left confused and dis-oriented with what is happening and why the characters are behaving the way they do. Therefore, in terms of story-telling, this movie falls down pretty hard. For those who don't know the story behind the movie beforehand, the film would come across not making any sense whatsoever, which, I can imagine, would be a very disturbing and disappointing watch.

Those who do know the story beforehand are generally able to fill in the blanks and insert all the backstory in between scenes, but even speaking as someone who knew the backstory beforehand, I still found myself trying to figure out what was happening on screen and where the scene fitted in within the whole. It was terrible because your mind is having to adjust and place the characters and circumstances in the right place as each scene flashed by, so you're always playing catch-up and whatever emotional connection you had with the characters ends up getting lost. You're no longer feeling the story or the characters any longer, you're playing catch up to what's going on.

It is worth noting that as the movie attempts to condense and reduce a very lengthy story into a 2-hour telling, the production team naturally had to make some changes to some characters and events which will inevitably differ from the original source material. While this is entirely understandable, it can also hamper the watch experience because in addition to the 'playing catch-up' process, the viewer is then also having to make sense of the changes within the movie-context in itself.
I personally found some changed plot-lines and new scenes baffling and bizarre, and to this day, still have no real idea why certain things happened, or what the director was trying to tell. A good example was the way the movie ended - haphazard, chaotic, baffling and bizarre.

In terms of pacing, the film was rather inconsistent. Some scenes were given plenty of space and air-time while other scenes flashed by so quickly that just before the viewer had time to absorb who was on screen and what was happening (especially for those having to read subtitles), it has ended and you're confronted with a completely different and new scene and your mind is having to adjust from the whiplash.
It made for a very scattered and dis-connected viewing experience and I can't help but think that if the director or editor had spent less time dwelling on certain scenes (the long pan and introduction into Qing Qiu being one of them), there might have been more time to allow other scenes to breathe better.

I also found myself wondering why the director chose to use or dwell on certain scenes which do not really add value in advancing an already fast-moving plot e.g. there was an extended sequence of Ye Hua cooking for Bai Qian (let's not even go into how that scene was depicted). Precious minutes spent on a cooking class when there is still so much ground to cover.

The choppy incoherent story-telling and inconsistent patchy pacing issues probably did not help (maybe even compounded to) the perception of underwhelming acting from the cast. Characters were not given enough time to establish their roles and personalities, what more for them to show us their evolution throughout the movie. As a result, it made it difficult for the viewer to understand their motives and their actions as the movie progressed. With the lost emotional connection, it is easy to pan the actors/ actresses for bad portrayals of their characters. Perhaps some of it can be put down to lacklustre acting ability, but I do also believe that another part of it was down to poor scripting of the characters, and to poor directing and editing of the movie.

Yang Yang and Crystal Liu were suitable for their roles, looks-wise. I thought Crystal was serviceable as Bai Qian but some key scenes which required her to exercise her haughty authority as the Queen of Qing Qiu did not have as much impact as I would have hoped for. Yang Yang portrayed a rather different Ye Hua from the original source material, in terms of personality and attitude. Some viewers might enjoy this fresh take on Ye Hua's character, while others like myself might have found it off-putting and borderline disturbing.
The rest of the supporting cast had too little airtime to really provide them with proper personalities, therefore a lot of them came across as one-dimensional one-note characters with a very set purpose to fulfil in advancing the plot along. They were there to do this, or do that, or say this, or say that, and their job was essentially done.

As I was too focused on trying to follow the plot and the happenings on-screen, I had very little time to appreciate the music score, except during that long pan of Qing Qiu.

Unfortunately, all things considered, I have to say that it was an unpleasant watch for me. There was very little I enjoyed or liked about this movie, therefore a re-watch is not even a consideration.

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7 people found this review helpful
Jun 29, 2017
Overall 8.5
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 8.5
I decided to write a review for this show seeing that not many people have written one for it, poor thing, and it is certainly not a bad show by any means for it to be so neglected. So here goes...

Having just recently joined the Thai lakorn bandwagon courtesy of SOTUS (that series was my gateway into Thai lakorns and what a gateway!), I decided to explore the pool of Thai drama series because it is always a refreshing change to explore new things. MyDramaList rankings being a good way to start, I quickly made my way through some of the top-ranked Thai shows and eventually came across this one. The synopsis appealed to me so I did not hesitate in deciding to watch it.

The idea of a couple gradually growing to love each other through an arranged marriage is an appealing concept because I am someone who carries the belief that while passion and romantic love is great for its drama and high tension, it doesn't stand the test of time. What stands the test of time is the love and devotion that comes from slowly knowing a person for who he/ she is, faults and all, and still choosing to forgive and accept the person into your heart, and to strive to make things work. Warm, gentle love vs explosive passion = warm gentle love wins for me. So, the fact that this is not your average dramatic, explosive slap/ kiss Thai lakorn, already makes this a very different beast.

The story is set in a sort of 1950s setting - love the period feel of it with the fashion and the sets. The pace might be a bit slow for those who are used to fast-paced, snappy, dramatics. By contrast, it has a relaxed, dreamy feel here. The show takes it sweet time in showing us the background of the main characters, and bulk of it is focused on your everyday living during that era.

However, this show is not exempt from the some of the usual drama tropes of bitchy second female lead. I am honestly shocked at her outrageous and ridiculous behaviour. And I am not sure if it is dramatic license or not, but some of the scenes with her come across incredibly unrealistic to me. There is also a running plot through the series of a criminal group which the main male lead is supposed to apprehend. The leader of the group, the White Tiger, practices black magic and uses it for nefarious purposes. Some of this will probably seem rather far-fetched to a viewer who does not subscribe or believe in this sort of thing, but as I come from an Asian/ Oriental culture myself, I do know that some people really do believe in this sort of thing. So, if this aspect of the show does not float your boat, feel free to ignore or fast-forward those scenes. I certainly did that myself and found that it did not detract much from the main storyline which was about how the two main leads fall for each other gradually through living with each other and discovering more about one another.

There are other secondary couplings (the 2 sisters of the female lead), but I freely confess that they did not really catch my attention because my main focus throughout this series was on the 2 main leads. But these events certainly lend some drama and also break what some people might deem as monotonous from watching the 2 main leads interact.

I personally did not find the slowness and the gradual budding love and understanding between the main leads to be monotonous or boring in the slightest. In fact this was really the sole reason I kept watching this series to the end because, as I mentioned earlier, I am a sucker for gradual building of love and trust, and for gentle and warm love.

PS: The editing can also be rather choppy - one of the negative things about this show. Scenes are abruptly cut with the accompanying background music also suddenly ceasing and before you know it, a completely new scene and background music jumps in. This makes for a jarring watch, especially when it happens at particularly emotional/ poignant scenes. The editing could definitely do with more work. PPS: On hindsight, those sudden breaks of scene could very likely be due to advertisement breaks during the show's airing.

As I was mainly fixated on the 2 main leads, this will be my main review point.
BELLA RANEE -  who plays Rin aka Brulalee, did well in portraying her to be the sort of noble gentlewoman of high society. Generally restrained, gentle and refined, I enjoyed her character and personality very much. I also like that she comes across very hands-on with the housework (though who really cooks in the kitchen with those outfits?), and is not a wilting wallflower when she feels strongly about something. Rin is not a one-dimensional character, and I like that she is relatable and realistic (unlike the caricaturish second female lead).

JAMES JIRAYU - who plays Saran, looks rather young to be a Deputy Sheriff and the male lead but I warmed up to him because unlike your alpha male dominant character, Saran comes across confident but kind and careful in his interactions with those around him. He is not over-bearing or aggressive, but can be firm and single-minded if he chooses. What I do like about this series is that Saran rather quickly warms up to Rin and is willing to give her a chance and make things work out with her early in the show. James makes it easy to like his Saran character and understand his conflicts. He has a sweet smile and can carry the occasional cheeky look, which makes it rather cute.

Also, I thought that the 2 main leads looked really good together and there is a comfortable natural-ness to their acting which makes their love and warmth believable. It is on the strength of this great chemistry that I enjoyed the series as much as I did, so well done to both James and Bella for their portrayal of their characters in making me like them and root for their happy ending.

I actually like the soundtrack and thought that it suited the mood and the pace of the show very well. There is this slow, dreamy mellow feel to the music which is very reminiscent of the period itself. However, towards the later half, I thought the theme songs for Rin and Saran were starting to get over-played. it would have been nice if they had changed the songs from the second half of the show onwards to prevent song-fatigue.

I probably would not re-watch the entire show again but I may re-watch certain bits of it for the Saran/Rin interactions because they were lovely and sweet. Overall, it is a lovely, sweet, warm and slow-build little show. If you like this sort of style and premise, then you really should consider giving this a try - it certainly won't disappoint you on that front.

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Oum Ruk
6 people found this review helpful
Aug 24, 2017
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 9.0
Having been wow-ed by Ken Theeradeth in 'Neung Nai Suang (2005)' despite not liking the overall plot-premise of the show, I went on a Ken Theeradeth hunting spree and chose to settle for the non-slap/kiss romantic comedy that is 'Oum Rak'. Fantastic choice!

In the 'Fated To Love You' style cliche of having main leads being thrown together through an intoxicated 'one-night-stand' which leads to pregnancy and all the resulting drama that comes with two unprepared parents-to-be, this show is hilariously lovely and sweet.

Before diving into this show, my initial expectation was that it would be a mix of funny hijinks - both from a situational and character-driven perspective. I expected that half the laughs would be from our characters being put in funny situations, and the other half would arise from the main leads' own eccentric/ quirky personalities too.

Well, I was half right. There were comedic situations for our main leads but that was mainly during the first one-third of the show. The remaining two-thirds were surprisingly rather grounded and warmly heart-tugging as our main leads settled into an agreement to see through the pregnancy process together. The show is more involved in showing viewers the changes and stages a mother goes through during a pregnancy, more than any other show I've seen which involves this trope.
I don't know about you, but this was really one of the best parts of the drama, for me. I just loved seeing how Rachen (Chen) quickly stuck right in and became such a dedicated and responsible man through it all. He embodied your modern metrosexual man in that he not only did not mind, but actually wanted to know all about what a woman goes through during pregnancy. He took pains to read, learn and get as involved in the process as he possibly could, and nothing was too squeamish or personal for him - from breast pains to morning sickness to foot massages and ante-natal classes. This guy is just such a sweetheart!

On the other side though, you have Napat who seems to be more detached, and even annoyed, at the whole pregnancy thing. (PS: I wonder how many people actually realise that as it was non-consensual sex, it was technically a rape? Which explains a lot about her reaction to the whole situation.) She didn't want the baby, knew it would hamper her modelling and acting career, and she behaved exactly as someone who didn't want to get pregnant but had little choice but to suck it up and see the whole thing through. The difference in attitudes among the would-be parents, and to have the male/ father being the more dedicated one of the pair, is a surprising but lovely little twist to your average pregnancy trope. I liked this change in dynamic and I loved how this show so excellently depicts it. I'm glad to say that Napat eventually grows more emotionally attached as her pregnancy advances, and with that comes another change in the relationship dynamic, which was another compelling watch.

Another great thing about this show is that a lot of the emotional heft and moments come from the agreement and arrangement which the main leads have settled amongst themselves. What was thought of as a good and suitable arrangement slowly grew fangs and they were gradually feeling the bite of it as time passed. For me, some of the best emotional moments in the show was when both leads were individually feeling that bite themselves. How nice is it that bulk of the conflict and issue within the drama was one of the main leads' own making, rather than a third-party interference?

And on that note, yes, of course this is a tv drama, so you will always have interfering third-parties, but for me, their interference was really of the pot-stirring kind, rather than the bomb-chucking sort. There were no real villains here - just interested parties trying to stir up an already rather finely-balanced situation. But those pot-stirrings didn't really last that long (another great thing about this show). The main leads generally know where their priorities should be and they are rather good at keeping their focus on the right ball. Seriously, how many shows are like this? Love it!

We do have a couple of other side stories running alongside the main couple. Both are secondary couples also trying to have a baby and finding it a lot harder than our main couple (who basically just hit the jackpot in one sitting). Both couples have very different dynamics in dealing with this, and I also liked seeing this difference. One is there for comic relief/ humour, while the other is more heart-wrenching. I thought both were lovely complements to the main coupling, even if the comedic couple were often a bit over-board in their characterisations.

The supporting cast and the secondary couplings were generally solid. Aside from the two second leads who were pretty one-note i.e. Mark (who is interested in Napat) and Jasmine (who is interested in Rachen), the other supporting characters and secondary couples had distinct personalities and motivations which made them more emotionally relatable, at least for me. I particularly liked Rachen's family unit and their portrayal through the show.

JAYME BOOHER as Anna, Napat's best friend (whom I also recognised as playing the rather annoying second lead female in 'Neung Nai Suang'), was great in her portrayal of Napat's BFF. She is what every BFF should be like - entirely supportive through thick and thin from buying pregnancy test kits to arranging doctor visits to lending a listening ear and offering sound advice. She was a huge advocate of Rachen having rights as the baby's father too, and made every effort to keep our main leads together - something I whole-heartedly supported. Her portrayal here is very different from that in 'Neung Nai Suang', but she pulls both off well. A good actress and I love her role here.

ANNE THONGPRASOM as Napat. I have heard about Anne being Ken T's 'koo kwan', but since this is my second Ken drama (the first being with Janie), this is my first time seeing Anne opposite Ken. She did not impress me that much in the first few episodes - partially due to her character's rather arrogant personality, and partially due to her looks which were not to my personal taste.
But she grew on me as an actress, especially when her character started to take her pregnancy more seriously and when she also started to reflect on her relationships and her future with her baby. Anne was able to show a lot more range and emotions when the show progressed, which was really wonderful to see. It is not an easy task to show conflicted internal turmoil (the hallmark of any good actor/ actress is whether they can pull this off well, for me), and Anne nailed her scenes here. She was able to show Napat grow and mature from your selfish and prideful woman into one who has learned to love and care for others and to seriously consider how to balance her future of career vs baby. She had her insecurities, hang-ups and doubts too which played a part in her making some of the decisions she chose to make, but there is no denying that her character had evolved greatly through the show, and that Anne was able to show that progression all the way. Well done.

KEN THEERADETH as Rachen. What can I say? I was amazed and impressed by his portrayal of Anawat in 'Neung Nai Suang', and here he plays a very different character in Rachen and he nailed it once again. This guy has officially won me over for his stellar acting prowess and for his charming smile. At the risk of going into full fangirling mode, I will try to be as lucid and objective as possible, but it is rather difficult, lol.
Rachen is a very different character from Anawat. While Anawat was in essence a gentleman of his time, Rachen is your modern day cocky and temperamental man. He is impulsive, loud and emotionally driven. But unlike Anne's Napat, his emotional outbursts come across more childish than offensive and I think this is something only Ken can pull off. He can make a dislikable character, or dislikable character traits, less dislikable for some reason. I think it is a combination of his looks (yes, being that handsome helps a great deal), and his ability to imbue subtle nuances to his character's looks and actions.
He has great expressive ability and this show gives him lots of opportunity to showcase it. There is a lot of playfulness and cheekiness on show here (which is just great because Ken's smiles are so lovely, and his comic expressions hilarious), but there is also plenty of internal doubts and disappointments too. His character's earnestness in wanting to be involved in every aspect of the pregnancy process is also just too adorable and sweet for words.
Best of all, Rachen, like Napat, grows and matures throughout the series and from the man-child he was at the start, he slowly grows to be a man who takes his responsibilities seriously and carries them as best as he possibly can. This evolution was also wonderfully portrayed here.
In short, Ken plays every aspect of Rachen like a maestro and best of all, he makes it all look so effortless and natural.

This is my first time seeing the much touted Ken/Anne koo kwan combo and I can't deny that Ken's chemistry here with Anne is a lot better than that with Janie in 'Neung Nai Suang'. Perhaps it is also Anne's acting ability (she is head and shoulders above Janie from what I've seen so far) because Anne is able to emote a lot better and so perhaps Ken is able to capitalise on that and also bring out more ability from his side. Or maybe they are really comfortable with each other from the start. From what I gather, 'Oum Rak' was their first drama together and they became such a great hit they starred in more dramas together afterwards.
EDIT: I was wrong. 'Oum Rak' is their second drama together.
Whatever it is, I can see why they make a great on-screen couple. Their acting is very balanced between them - when one is being over-the-top, the other is equally over-the-top, but when one is being quietly emotional, the other can also be equally quietly emotional. There is a very good and equal balance when they both interact on-screen so both characters develop memorable and individual personalities that play off each other well and none are really completely overshadowed by the other.
Anyway, suffice to say, I am definitely keen to check out more dramas with this couple combo (maybe even eventually venture into the crazy slap/kiss fest that is 'Sawan Biang' *gasp*).

I loved the background music and the sound effects on this show. I thought it really added to the tone and mood of each scene, and even though I don't understand Thai and the meaning behind the vocals of the songs, the melody is still a nice scene and mood setter.

Yes, definitely re-watchable, even if it is just for Ken's cute smiles and adorable sweetheart actions. An absolutely brilliant romantic comedy - it brings on the laughs but it also brings along the feels.
Honestly, it has been a long time since my heart was so emotionally touched during some of the poignant and emotionally-driven scenes, and 'Oum Rak' has now become one of my favourite romantic-comedies, on par with my favourites from the K-drama, C-drama, J-drama and TW-drama scene. What an amazing find this was!

I would actually also like to say this, which is NOT a spoiler as it relates to Episode 1:-

I think what a lot of viewers don't realise is that the 'one-night-stand', which triggers the whole premise of this show, was actually non-consensual because Napat (the main female lead) was so intoxicated she was literally passed out i.e. unconscious. Therefore, she was actually incapable of knowing nor providing any form of consent when Rachen (the main male lead) mistakenly mistook her for someone else in his own drunken state and took advantage of her.
This means that the act was technically a rape. Yes, I know a lot of people are sensitive about this r-word but even though it was not a straight-forward forced-act-against-someone's-will, it was still non-consensual and hence we should call a spade a spade.

This is important because it really gives context to Napat's very strong reactions after she finds out upon waking up; and it also explains Rachen's own deep sense of guilt and shame over the whole incident. It also gives a lot of context to their inter-personal dynamic and their own relationship development as the show progresses.

Without seeing things from this perspective, viewers may not necessarily understand why our main leads behaved the way they did at certain points of the show, so this is why I have taken the time to explain it here. The script, characterisation and character-motivations on this show is actually consistent, well-structured and well-thought through, but not many people may realise this without understanding the context and the trigger right from the start.
So, although it is a sensitive issue, it makes a whole world of a difference to how you view the show and understand our main characters, and I hope by sharing this many new (and old) viewers would be able to better appreciate this hidden gem of a show.

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Sawan Biang
4 people found this review helpful
Sep 1, 2017
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 9.5
Music 8.5
Rewatch Value 9.0
This show is not an easy show to watch or to comment or to write a review on, for me, because there are lots of thoughts swirling through my head with this and I am not completely sure if I can coherently verbalise them all. Who knows, I will probably re-visit this review and update it from time to time.

But first, let's start with some warnings for first-time viewers out there or people considering whether to watch this drama or not.

1) I'm sure you've probably noticed from the comment sections but let me re-iterate it here. This drama has scenes of abuse - physical, emotional and psychological. This show is a literal minefield of triggers. If you're sensitive to scenes of violence, rage, rape, emotional blackmail and abuse, this is either not the show for you, or if you're still intent on watching it regardless, please go into it heavily armed and prepared. You have been warned.

2) For a lakorn, I personally think that this is one of, if not the, most realistically set lakorns I've seen. Why is this a warning? Well, because the realism and the depictions of scenes, especially those in your typical everyday places, make it harder for you to disassociate from the show. Shows which depict a more fantastical world which normal viewers are rather unfamiliar with give the viewer a more distanced viewing experience because it takes us out of our familiar world and into another. But shows which are set in your everyday places, and whose characters have a more realistic depiction of personalities, bring home the experience to your doorstep. You're not taken out of your world into another, no, this world comes knocking on your front door and makes itself at home in your house. And that adds another subtle layer to the emotional triggers on this show. It's harder for the viewer to disassociate from what's happening on-screen.

3) I personally would not label this show as a romance for a primary genre because large chunks of it could hardly be considered romantic - so for those of you going into this expecting a sweeping romance, you're going to be in for a very rude shock. If you asked me, I'd prefer to call it a study on human psychology and cognitive behaviour, and its impact on others. I can't believe I'm actually saying this about a lakorn.

4) The main characters depicted in this show are not caricatures or stock characters. They are not overdone or over-cooked or over-dramatised. There are people in the real world out there who actually can, and do, act and behave the way our main characters do. This is disturbingly, and horrifically true. And the show does a damn amazing job at showing it, and their twisted logic for their behaviours, too well for comfort. So, if you're a person who has had bad experiences with people who exhibit such behaviours, again, emotional trigger warning. It may not be the scenes or actions which may trigger an emotional response but the characters themselves as well.
Potential character triggers are:-
a) characters with rage/ anger management issues,
b) characters who use physical violence,
c) characters who use verbal attacks, manipulations and provocations on another,
d) characters who come from and are part of broken and highly dysfunctional families,
e) characters who have been on the receiving end of rape, violence and abuse, and
f) characters who do not act or seem passive when faced with someone who has been abused.
So, please, if any of the above character personalities are triggers for you, proceed with caution.

There, long list of warnings (and I may add more later), but necessary, I believe, to spare potential viewers shock or horror or disgust or even emotional breakdown.

Dear Lord, where to start? Let me first lay it on the table - revenge and slap/kiss shows are not my cup of tea. I could hardly finish any prior to this show - 'Kleun Cheewit' being the only one which I managed to laboriously make it over the finish line. Well, 'Kleun Cheewit' has really got nothing on 'Sawan Biang' on almost every front - it is like your little toddler in the sandbox against your heavy-weight boxing champion. No contest even.
So why on earth did I even venture to watch this show?
Well, first and foremost, I was just too impressed with the Ken/Anne acting & chemistry combo in 'Oum Rak' and wanted to see more of them in other shows.
Second, I had heard much about 'Sawan Biang' being a masterclass in the acting department for lakorns, and particularly for Ken Theeradeth's performance. I had to at least see it for myself.
Third, I had also heard much about the quality of 'Sawan Biang' in terms of tight scripting and character studies and development, and good productions are a huge draw for me.
Fourth, I wanted to see what all the hype and hoo-ha over this show was for myself - there have been so many polarised comments on MDL, I felt I needed to see and make my own judgement on this show.

I'll be honest with you, I had to prepare myself a lot because I was worried about the subject matter which this show depicts. It's not a subject matter I liked, it sounded disturbing and I was not sure if I could stomach it all the way through. So I cheated and watched the last 3 episodes (i.e. episode 10, 11 and 12), first. As this section was the main male lead (Kawee)'s redemptive arc, it gave me a good picture of his journey through redemption, and how he arrived at the destination. For me, if this was not sufficiently realistic and satisfactory in its portrayal, I would not bother watching the rest of the show. Well, everyone will have their own personal opinions on 'Sawan Biang''s redemptive arc, but I personally thought it was quite wonderfully detailed and emotionally-grabbing enough for me to get a handle on how difficult and involved Kawee's road to redemption was; and it was satisfactory enough for me to go ahead and watch the rest of the show from the start. Knowing how it ended helped a lot to buffer some of the harder moments in the show.

Right, so back to episode 1 for a proper viewing. And I have to say, for all my preparation, I still found myself surprised at how deep and disturbing this show can run. Goes to show that there is only so much you can do to prepare yourself, but once you start down it proper, it will still grab you by the balls and knee you in the groin. And I think that it says a lot about how solidly fantastic this show was in bringing out the dysfunctionality of the characters, and their psyche and motivations behind their decisions and actions.

Let me be absolutely clear: all our main characters are flawed. Kawee, Leela and Kawee's father (Kid), are most definitely flawed and rather messed up people, but Narin is no angel of goodness either. She has her character flaws too - different sort of flaws but flaws all the same. And these flaws in all these characters are not made-up - made-up, in the sense that they have no real ground or seed.
Yes, each character has a base personality which makes up the soil/ ground on which each characters stand, but there are cracks and splits in that ground which, when seeds fall into, are fertile soil for those seeds to germinate, put down roots, and grow and spread, manifesting their fruit in the decisions and actions of these characters.

People are born with some character flaws, but circumstances, environment and upbringing can twist it, mould it, and shape it into the living being that the person is today. It's true. It's real. It's life. And this show will resonate with those of us who've been through some of that. The more we've encountered some of the circumstance and the people in this show, the more it will resonate with you. And I believe that in each and every one of us there will be something in this show that will ring just too close to home. Because, who hasn't encountered flawed people in their life?

So, this show will inevitably touch you in some way. It will dredge up and provoke all sorts of thoughts and emotions because it is pretty realistically grounded. The twisted logic and motivation behind some of the character decisions is surprisingly believable, and the careless or thoughtless actions which may seem harmless at first glance can evolve into a monster of your own making in a believable and real way.

I don't know what else I can say on this subject without going into spoilers. Goodness knows, there is so much to talk about in terms of the details on how excellent this show is on the character portrayal aspect, but you'd need proper examples and situations to walk you through it, and I can't do that without revealing spoilers. Ugh.

Another thing of note is the dialogue in this show. I don't know how many people are familiar with the saying "out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks", but well, it's wonderfully depicted in this drama. A lot of the character insights and motivations are revealed in what they say - you get an insight into the brokenness of their hearts and their biased thoughts through their outbursts of speech. And when you see two of them going at it in massive verbal shoutouts, as a viewer you are just utterly mesmerised. It's just crazily real how each person acts and speaks from their own standpoint, but it is utterly at cross-purposes and received so differently by the other because they are also acting and speaking from their own differing standpoint.

I'm also going to say something about the abuse in this show - I think this is probably the single most polarising aspect of this show for the viewers. It's not a nice subject matter, but unfortunately it is the hinge on which the show swings on. Without it, the show fails to really impact and gain emotional traction. And this is what, I think, viewers need to realise. This show makes no excuses for the abuse depicted, nor does it romanticise it and tries to sell it to us as an acceptable thing - something you will realise if you took the time to step outside of the outrage the show incites and view it in a more objective manner. However, this show is bloody brave, in my opinion, in daring to show us the ugly side of being human. You see them in all their ugly glory, and you see the horrible impact of it on others.

The character personalities the show portrays are also not necessarily a fantasy either. Some people do neglect and fail to understand their own children. Some people respond to childhood neglect through attention-seeking, reckless and violent behaviour. Some people respond to personal rejection in twisted vengeful ways. Some people can actually fall for the people they abuse, and victims of abuse can also sometimes feel empathy for their abusers. And some people do stay silent or passive despite knowing about another's abuse.
On the other hand, there are also some people who do change and try to redeem themselves as abusers too, even if others think that they should be destroyed for their sins. And some people are willing to give others a second chance, even if others believe that they shouldn't.
Whether we feel that it is right or wrong is irrelevant, in my opinion, because this is a show about people being people. And whether we like it or not, there are characters and people like this in real life that behave and respond this way. And I personally think that this show is rather brave by depicting all that - controversies be damned.

Last but definitely not least, I'm glad that while this show had us seeing all that dross that makes flawed characters tick, the show also took pains to show us the transformative power of love. It sounds terribly cliche, and it's been done a million times, but it doesn't make it any less true or less powerful a message. There is a reason why love is such an amazing thing - it really does have the power to instil change and motivate a person to see outside of themselves and to consider the feelings of others. It really does transform people from selfish individuals into selfless ones.

And this is why I gave it a 9 out of 10 rating on the story aspect, not so much for the story per se (which is like the base-board of an oil painting), but mainly for the tightly-scripted character portrayals, the character developments, and for the way the main characters eventually deal with and arrive at a conclusion.
I may not like the overall subject matter of this show, but I respect the way the show is determined to show us the ugly and weak side of being human and take us on a redemptive journey through the eyes of some of them.

Majority of the casting and acting is solid. There are a few characters which I can do without (i.e. I personally don't think they really add value to the production or to the show and are one-dimensional or caricatures and when placed side-by-side with the complex characters, they cheapen the production).
But the credit and the show really and ultimately rested on 4 main characters and their amazing and effective acting performance. Had any of these four been lesser actors or actresses, this show would not have half the impact it does nor half the weight and heft.
So here goes...

DILOK THONGWATTANA - as Kid Worawath, Kawee's father. Gosh, everyone talks about Ken's performance but I think a lot of people also don't realise how good Dilok was as Kawee's father. His role and his acting might not be as eye-catching as Kawee, but he is absolutely critical and the primary catalyst for us being able to see Kawee as he is. Kid is the air that fills Kawee's balloon - the one that gives him shape and the one that gives him form. Without Kid, Kawee would be but a flat, deflated lump of rubber. So, it takes an actor of calibre to be able to pull off the character of Kid well so that he gives Kawee life. And Dilok does the character of Kid to perfection. Some of the best and most memorable scenes in this show are when Kawee is facing Kid - the emotion and the energy is just... tangible and weighty. And this cannot be done without Dilok holding his own against Ken in those scenes. An amazing veteran actor who fulfilled and did his role to perfection.

NATARIKA THAMAPREEDANAN - as Leela, Narin's older sister; Kid Worawath's wife and Kawee's step-mother. I found her more difficult to rate as an actress here because there were many occasions where I saw her character showing all sorts of emotions on-screen but found myself wildly guessing what she was feeling and wondering what was in her mind at that point. She is the most difficult one to fathom in the whole show and I'm not sure if it was deliberately written as such in the script, or if it was a weakness of the actress. I'd like to give the actress the benefit of the doubt here though, because I personally think that Leela probably had multiple and conflicting emotions bubbling and brewing in her chest during these scenes and I don't think there is that one single emotion that can be portrayed. She has the most internal conflict, I think. She has to balance her love and her responsibility towards her sister, her own unburied and un-dealt-with feelings for Kawee and her own feelings for Kid and the whole marriage setup. There is lots going on in her little head, I believe, and it is hard to determine which particular emotion dominates at any particular time - in fact, I believe it constantly shifts and changes, like a whirlpool. But for what it's worth, I thought Natarika still brought life and complexity to the character of Leela, and that in the hands of a lesser actress, Leela would not be as enigmatic and as faceted a character as what we have.

ANNE THONGPRASOM - as Narin. I truly and honestly believe that nobody could have done a better Narin than Anne. The range of emotions and the way she immersed herself into the role so that all of Narin's conflicts and feelings are vividly seen, is just... downright amazing. She just pulls you into her character so damn well that instead of feeling like a third-party observer (which you can sometimes feel with an actress who is less masterful in her role), it is almost as though you were right with her in her circumstances and in her emotions. You feel her fear, her desperation, her heart-break, her despair, her hate, her conflict, and her love - and she does it all without going overboard with it, without over-doing it, so instead of an element of the theatrical (which, again, in the hands of lesser actresses, could easily swing that way), there is an air of pathos, of heavy emotional weight, and of realism in Anne's performance as Narin. The evolution of her character as Narin from the optimistic and confident girl who sometimes carries an air of almost careless arrogance (which I attribute to the youthfulness of her character at the start because only the young and inexperienced in life could sometimes behave and think the way she does), to a withdrawn and cautious girl who has experienced severe trauma in life but is determined to get on with the consequences and with life itself regardless, is painfully realistic. She is simply outstanding here as Narin.

KEN THEERADETH - as Kawee Worawath. This man. I have run out of superlatives to describe him and his phenomenal and versatile acting ability. Good grief. A lot of people say that Kawee is the pinnacle of Ken's acting performance, and I stand in unanimous agreement that his performance as Kawee was a masterclass in acting out complex, conflicted, dysfunctional and broken characters.
Kawee is not an easy character to portray without having him descend into needlessly cruel, heartless beast on one end of the spectrum, or into self-entitled theatrical drama queen on the other end. Neither ends of the spectrum yield much, if any, sympathy nor do they evoke any emotional connection with the character.
Without Ken's nuanced and layered acting as the emotionally stunted and neglected Kawee, none of us would be able to identify as much with the brokenness that is at work in this man which manifests itself in his violent, outward actions. This man is like a wounded animal - growling, snarling and slashing out at anyone who provokes or rouses him. Those wounds, big and gaping and bleeding, are what makes us realise that this man is not lashing out just for kicks and giggles. This inability to relate to other people in any other way makes him a pitiful creature, who is, at the same time, dangerous and someone to be highly wary of.
I'm not going to make excuses for Kawee's behaviour, nor am I going to colour them in a positive way because they are most definitely not positive, but there is a difference between a person who has received deep wounds through the neglect and and insensitivity of others and who is unable to find any alleviation and relief from such wounds except through the expression of rage and violence; compared to a person who very coldly and very deliberately sets out to destroy others for the pure enjoyment and satisfaction of it.
There is sympathy and understanding for one, and none for the other.
And, more importantly, there is hope for one, but none for the other.
And it takes a powerhouse actor to be able to let us distinguish between the two.
Thankfully, this show doesn't just have poor Kawee stay this way but takes us on a rather rough journey to how Kawee eventually changes from a dysfunctional man starved of love to one who eventually learns how to love by falling in love. It is not an easy journey for him and there is plenty of missteps and clumsiness along the way, not to mention the hard task of having to atone and work his way towards acceptance and forgiveness. But seeing him go through it, and seeing how Ken was able to portray the conflicts and changes Kawee goes through is a beautiful watch. Ken's plethora of best actor awards is truly well-deserved.

**PS: I would actually like to say a word about the Kawee/ Narin relationship dynamic, and this contains spoilers. **
Some people are rather indignant at what they feel is a wrong message the show is sending in having a victim of rape/ abuse fall in love with her rapist/ abuser. I personally do not agree with this because I have a completely different view of the message the show is sending entirely.
My take on having seen this drama is that Narin never loved Kawee at all during the entire time she was abused. She was really traumatised by it and, in her own words to Kawee, feared him and hated him for what he did. However, I think that there is an element of empathy for him in the midst of all that fear and hate because she was aware of his weakness regarding his father and hence when his father died, she empathised with his loss. My take is that she only started to love Kawee during the time when Kawee was trying so hard to atone for his sins and worked so hard to show her that he was a changed person. And I think the drama did send this message across loud and clear by having Narin clearly inform Kawee of how much she feared and hated him after he found her at the riverside house, before Kawee embarked on his de-meaning, atoning work for her. It was his humble and persistently caring efforts despite all her re-buffs and cold treatment that eventually moved her, I believe, and caused her to see that he could actually be a loving and reliable man.
For Kawee, however, I believe that he fell in love with Narin much earlier, probably during the kidnap period. He came across intrigued and provoked by Narin when he first met her, because she was initially not afraid nor in awe of him and did not hesitate to challenge him. This incited his interest but I think it was during the kidnap and rape incident and when he saw how much she wept and how heart-broken she was that he was probably moved for the first time and felt the weight of his actions. He tried to express some of it in his clumsy and brute fashion by occasional acts of care and tenderness to Narin during the kidnap, but because his primary language is intimidation and violence, he was not able to get his message across at all and instead received more of Narin's rejections and hate, which, in turn, caused him to revert back to type and lashing out as a response. But his feelings grew despite all that, leading him to resort to emotional blackmail after the kidnap so that he could spend more time with her. His father confronting him about Narin probably gave him an insight that his methods of associating and relating with Narin was actually not helping his cause at all but was really hurting her, and unfortunately before Kawee could really do something about it, his father died and Narin ran away.
It was really his one-sided love for Narin that actually gave Kawee the impetus and the motivation to change and transform himself into a man acceptable to her, and to try and win her heart. So, to me, it was really a case of the abuser actually falling for his victim and, because of that love, caused him to make a decision to change his ways and sought to become a man who could win her heart.
I believe THIS is the message the show is trying to tell us - not about victims falling in love with abusers, but the scenario is actually the other way round. And it is about how that power of love can be the catalyst and the instrument for changing a twisted, messed-up person into someone truly human again. **

While I like the soundtrack and thought the character theme songs rather fitting, I did feel that this aspect of the show could have been better done. I personally think that some of the more emotional moments could have been more impactful and carry more gravitas or weight with a more deft hand in handling the background music. Sometimes, instrumentals instead of vocals can make a bigger difference to how a scene reaches the audience, and if perhaps the director or production team took a bit more time to experiment on different options, they might have made some scenes even more powerful. But this is just my 2 cents.

Wow. This show incites and dredges up a lot of various emotions for me so I don't think I can re-watch this too soon. There needs to be some down-time, some time to re-balance and re-settle oneself after an emotional watch such as this, especially if a lot of triggers get activated.
I think whether a show is re-watchable is entirely subjective and depends on the person's individual experience with the show. For me, it was an emotionally provoking show, which is what makes this drama so powerful. It is not something I can take in large doses, but at the same time, it is not something I can entirely leave alone or forget about either.

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Aug 15, 2017
Overall 8.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 8.0
I'm not usually one for mafia shows - all that plotting, double-crossing, betrayal and portrayal of vice and cold-bloodedness doesn't really appeal to me (hence my dislike for revenge slap/kiss genres too), but I hesitantly decided to try this one because of a) some pretty good reviews/ comments about this show, and b) Mick was really channeling this 'James Dean' vibe which appealed very much to my superficial love of looks.

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised with how well-done this show was. The show starts off with a dramatic cold open where we are placed right in a scene rife with emotional and dramatic tension - and BANG! we're off. I thought it was a very effective and quick way of introducing the characters of our main leads, alongside potential complications which you know will inevitably arise in the future. That was some impressive directing and story-telling there.

What I also thought was pretty good for this show is that for almost its entire run, it managed to maintain a well-tuned balance of action, plot-movement, romance, and character-building. The action/ fight scenes were generally high-quality (yes you have the occasional unrealistic bit here and there but overall it was slick, smooth and edgy) and there was little stagnation in terms of storylines unfolding and revelation of plots/ backstories. Yet, in the midst of all that, there was also generous amounts of time spent to establish the characters and personalities of our key characters, as well as in building the relationships within the show. Aside from the rushed ending (I understand that the production team had to cut the show by 2 episodes, which was probably the main culprit for why the ending was below-par), I really enjoyed the whole drama.

 You get a sense that there was an assured and strong directorial hand behind the entire show as scenes move coherently and seamlessly from one action/ story to another, and as characters almost consistently maintain their personalities and main characteristics throughout the run of the show. I was also pleasantly surprised that there were no over-the-top psychotic, insane second leads/ antagonists here. The main cast driving the show were all well-rounded in their character portrayals and very realistically flawed people which made them very relatable and real. There were sufficient revelations of backstories and enough screen-time for us to get to know them and understand their personalities and motivations behind their actions and so we could emotionally connect with them - even if we sometimes disagreed or were frustrated with their course of action.

I liked a lot of the supporting characters here, flawed and human as they were. Standouts for me were: Fahsai's parents, Chen Biao and Ah Jo of the Golden Dragon gang, Fai and Nuch from LOLA Magazine, even Chen Ming's mentally challenged elder brother.

From a pacing, story-telling, directing and editing perspective, this has been one of the better lakorns I've had the pleasure to watch.

As in any mafia drama, of course there will be lots of shady, imbalanced, cold-blooded, ruthless and seedy people but, as I mentioned earlier, they are not all your typical one-stock, one-dimensional villains. There is more depth and complexity to quite a few of the characters in this show, which makes it interesting and compelling to watch because you're often trying to fathom what their true motives and intentions are behind some of the smiles or stoic faces. Honestly, I thought the supporting cast was great in this show.

PIMPRAPA/ PIMMY - as Botan/ Fahsai. As Botan, she was serviceable because really, Botan hardly had much screen-time for me to really connect with her character, but as Fahsai, she was wonderful. This is a personal opinion, of course, but I actually really liked Fahsai in this show. From the start where she first finds out about her boyfriend of 10-year's betrayal, to her rather assertive and gutsy reactions when she meets Daniel, she really won me over from the first episode onwards. A lot of her reactions and responses were those which I could identify with. For majority of the show, the things she said and did were things I probably would have done too, if I were in her shoes, so she was eminently relatable to me right from the get-go. Yes, there were some occasions where I found myself disagreeing with her course of action, but I could understand her motive and reasoning behind them and so could not really fault her too much for some of the things she did. Her character did devolve a little towards the end of the show but as Fahsai had amassed a lot of goodwill from me by then, I was a lot more willing to find excuses for her weepy and rather passive behaviour by then. When one has gone through the amount of hard knocks this girl has gone through, I guess she is entitled to her moment of weakness and inertia and I can't blame her if she wanted to crawl under her blanket and stay there until the next century rolled around.

MICK TONGRAYA - as Daniel Wong. Mr Giant James Dean! Goodness but he had me at hello with that poufy gelled-up hairdo and stoic, brooding demeanour. For a huge chunk and run of the show, he was brilliant as the head of the Golden Dragon gang. Generally calm, confident, unflappable and a very able fighter, it is easy to see why he was made a leader at such a young age. He came across very capable, strong and assured, and he was not one who was easily fooled or taken in. He was intelligent and sharp, and the way he deals with his underlings and entourage was the kind of assured authority I myself wished to see in my own boss at work. It is very understandable why his own subordinates were so loyal and respectful of him. Mick did a fantastic job in bringing all these aspects of Daniel to life - a great performance for me.
Some viewers appeared to be a little unhappy with some of Daniel's actions (from some of the comments here), and I can understand where they were coming from, especially towards the end of the show, but at the same time, I could also understand the character motivation and rationale behind the actions too because the show took pains to show it to us. I think a lot of people forget that the Daniel at the start of the show is no longer the same Daniel towards the end of the show. The Daniel towards the end of the show had experienced a lot more stuff and found out a lot more about the past which, inevitably, affects and changes a person somewhat. I could identify with some of his fears and insecurities which may seem a little out of character or disappointing for some.
And can I just say that I love the height difference between our main leads? Mick is so tall (190cm apparently), and Pimmy looks so petite and small beside him, it makes her look so cute when she keeps looking up at him during their interactions. They had good chemistry too, and some of their scenes came across downright adorable, especially when they're smiling at each other. I thought it was a good pairing here.

BOOM PIYAPHUN - As Chen Ming, was also great. I really liked to see his evolution throughout the series, even if I am sometimes frustrated and angry with him for being so blinkered and blind, and rather naive or stupid (his own words!). I liked that you get to see the difference between him and Daniel as gang leaders. One is a natural leader who governs with a very self-assured hand, while the other is rather lost and confused at having the leadership position suddenly and traumatically thrusted upon him. It's great to be able to see the dichotomy in leadership skills and personalities, and how they affect the rest of the group.

Special mention to MEK JUTI as Chen Biao, my favourite right-hand man. What a character! Another great evolution as the series progresses. I loved his relationship dynamic with Daniel - there is a lot of trust and respect between them - and am so glad we got given a backstory to him too. His appearances on-screen added a lot of sparkle and pop to the show, especially when things got a bit melodramatic from our main leads. And can I just say that I love his voice? There is something in that rather low timbre that really appeals to my aural senses which no other male character (Mick included) had.

I thought the music and background score was a great supplement to the show. The theme song is easy on the ears and quite melodic.

Quite high. Because it wasn't only the romance which was compelling for me. I thought that the whole show (rushed ending notwithstanding) was very well-done. Well-balanced, well-thought through, great acting, strong directing and editing, with relatable and compelling cast. If the ending had finished as strongly as the beginning and middle bits, this show would have been great.

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Soot Sanaeha
3 people found this review helpful
Sep 13, 2017
Overall 8.5
Story 8.5
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 7.5
Rewatch Value 8.5
I actually did not plan to write a review for this show but seeing the empty Review section made me a little sad so here goes...

My third Ken/Anne drama after 'Oum Rak' and 'Sawan Biang' and I think I have probably nailed their top 3 out of 5 now. I wasn't too keen to watch this initially because while this was a rom-com, it seemed that food/cooking was a main overarching theme and it was not one which particularly appealed to me (alongside medical themed dramas), because I find that most shows with a chef don't tend to do realistic portrayals of proper chefs and their difficult and highly-skilled work in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I can't really say that this show made the cut in this aspect, so for those who are a bit more picky in terms of accuracy of portrayals of people in a professional capacity, you might want to close one eye and shut the other on this show.

So, toss accuracy of the chef profession aside and use the cooking theme as the main storyboard on which the whole show rests on. Or rather, use the cooking theme as a main storyboard on which the character of Alin rests on, because this show is really about her.

Alin is an interesting, quirky and rather funny main character on which the whole show revolves around. But what, I think, makes her character pop and stand-out for me (and probably a lot of viewers too), is that she is surprisingly headstrong, assertive and quite marvellously able to stand on her own two feet throughout the entire show. She fights her own cat-fights, and is practically fearless in action whether it be facing down a sea of reporters in press conferences, or facing off against her potential mother-in-law, or in making demands and throwing a tantrum at the point of a gun. She's such a Diva, but yet we can't really hate her, even in her most manipulative, exploitative moments. For crafting a memorable leading lady, this show is pure gold.

The pacing of this show is steady and solid, with side characters and story-arcs being given more than enough air-time to establish personalities, character motivations, back-stories, and forward-movement of plots. I also thought that the script and the way the show evolved was very well-written and I was actually so absorbed in watching the first two-thirds of the show that I hardly used the fast-forward button (which is normally in action for stock character appearances). I personally thought that the show lost some of its amazing momentum in the later one-third, and I wished they could have fleshed out the ending a bit better so that we could sit back and sigh in bliss as we watched our main leads together, but these are minor gripes in the whole scheme of things.

Overall, this is a solid romantic-comedy with a scintillating main character who brings lots of sparkle and pop to this show.

Most of the supporting cast of characters are great. You do have your villains in this show and they can be pretty one-note in terms of character and rather over-exaggerated in terms of portrayal - typical of Thai lakorns - but the main characters are all well-rounded and well-done.

KEN THEERADETH - as Kru Cook/ Pasu/ Din. Ken won another acting award for his role here, and while I can appreciate why because Ken is as good as ever with his ability to emote on-screen, I personally enjoyed his earlier character portrayals in his earlier dramas ('Oum Rak' and 'Sawan Biang') more. His character here is less of a stand-out compared to the main female lead, so I think he was a little over-shadowed here. But still, over-shadowed or not, Ken is as good as ever in being able to bring to life his characters to the screen and make them as different and as distinguishable from other characters he has played in the past. His versatility in the acting department is truly outstanding.

ANNE THONGPRASOM - as Alin. This is Anne's show, without a doubt, and she deserved her best actress acting award in spades. Alin is such a multi-faceted and mercurial character, with mood changes and temperaments as changeable as the wind, but yet Anne is able to hold it all together and knit the various clashing colours of the character into one amazing garment. She is somehow able to make the character of Alin winsome despite all that diva temper-throwing and self-entitled arrogant huffs. We can see why Kru Cook fell in love with Alin despite her crazy character flaws, and in the hands of a lesser actress, this show could have gone completely off the rails and self-destructed. Anne was brilliant here, just absolutely brilliant from start to finish. Standing ovation from the floor.

Chemistry-wise, both Ken and Anne had them in spades, which I've come to expect as par for the course for this pairing. This on-screen couple is incredible at generating that kind of gravitational force that pulls you into their orbit and every single one of their scenes together, regardless of which drama, is just mesmerising.

I admit that the music did not really catch my attention in this show. There was not a lot of over-playing of character theme songs or repetitive soundtracks here which is also a nice change from some of the dramas which bludgeon you over the head with their music score. I guess it must have been sufficiently subtle and good enough to have passed unnoticed and yet not jarring the show or the scenes.

I confess that among the 3 Ken/Anne dramas I've seen, this one currently stands lowest on my re-watch list. Don't get me wrong, this is a fantastic romantic-comedy show, and Anne is just outstanding here, but the relationship dynamic and the emotional feels this show and this coupling incites was not as mesmerising nor as emotionally-provoking as 'Oum Rak' and 'Sawan Biang', for me. But as a stand-alone Thai lakorn, this is still one of the best out there, because really, the Ken/Anne coupling is just head-and-shoulders above their compatriots. Simply unmatchable.

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Neung Nai Suang
3 people found this review helpful
Aug 17, 2017
Overall 6.0
Story 6.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 6.5
Rewatch Value 3.0
I decided to watch this instead of the 2015 remake because a lot of viewers were saying that the older version was a lot better. And I can probably see why because this is a very character-driven show and as much as I like James Jirayu (in Khun Chai Puttipat and Padiwaradda), I honestly don't think that he would be able to pull off the character of Anawat the way Ken Theeradeth did in this show.

Perhaps I should have been alerted to the inference in the synopsis when it said that "having been rejected by Boom, Neung sets out to mess with Boom and prove that he can still get his own way". I am not a fan of power-tripping characters i.e. characters who deliberately set out to bully or oppress others to show that they can get their own way and feel all powerful and all-conquering in the process. Which is why I dislike a lot of the Thai second lead females and villains/ antagonists and tend to fast-forward through their scenes.

But here, the main male lead sports this sort of behaviour towards the main female lead. It is a testament to how well the script was written and how layered and nuanced Ken Theeradeth's acting was as Anawat that I did not immediately drop this drama after the 5th or 6th episode. However, as much as Ken was doing as good a job as he could as Anawat, I still eventually developed a real dislike towards the character that I skipped about 3 episodes entirely so that I could jump right to the last 4 and see how it ended. And I didn't really like the ending either, not because of Ken's bad acting or anything, but because I just disliked the script i.e. the way the characters ended up resolving their circumstances.

So here's the deal: this show is actually a good show.
The reason why I gave it a low score is not because of the production or the acting or even because of bad scripting (when I say bad scripting, I mean bad story-telling). My low score is entirely due to my personal dislike for main characters who pull the bully card on people and who, even after realising their own bad bullying character, made very little effort in making amends but instead went into a tailspin and even used third parties and deception to resolve the situation (i.e. he never really grew up). The whole premise and resolution for this show just rubbed me up in a bad way that no matter how well Ken did in giving Anawat a more layered and nuanced personality, I still found myself entirely dissatisfied with the show because of how his character and circumstances were portrayed.

KEN THEERADETH - as Anawat/ Neung. I can see why Ken is such a well-loved actor on the Thai drama scene. He can certainly pull of a dislikable character and give him more emotional depth and layers than a lot of the younger and less seasoned actors in the newer dramas these days. Had it been any other actor playing this role, I probably would have dropped this drama entirely within the first few episodes so it is a testament to Ken's performance that I was able to sit through huge chunks of the show despite the fact that he was portraying a character with a personality that I hated. Disliking my lead characters is a real deal-breaker for me in dramas but Ken made his Anawat a lot less hateful.
I am impressed with how naturally and easily Ken looked playing Anawat too. The way he walked and moved, and the way he emoted, it all looked very real and natural on-screen, as though Anawat was a living and breathing person you could meet on the street. There is very little contrived or posed looks which some actors make for the camera so that you know what they're thinking or feeling. I can see why Ken is such a powerhouse actor - pity I disliked the way his character was scripted.
Still, fantastic performance from Ken as Anawat here. I can't see any other actor pulling off this level of performance.

JANIE - as Boom/ Pum/ Hatairat. Superficially, I personally did not find her the amazing beauty the show was trying to sell to me. I think she did rather okay as the main female lead but there were quite a few scenes where I found her acting to be green, rather blank and rather artificial. I think she can handle the big dramatic moments but when it came to the soft, quiet and emotionally charged moments, she could do with lots of improvement. Ken's eyes were shooting all sorts of emotion at her and she presented him with a blank wall a lot of the time. Which made it difficult for me to really understand whether Pum/ Hatairat really secretly liked Anawat despite his 'teasing'. The shifts and change in emotions and the introspective scenes did not really lend much insight to her feelings, unlike Ken's. You'd expect her to be able to show Pum/ Hatairat's conflicted emotions in finding herself liking someone against her own will as the show progressed, but nope, I hardly saw much of it there.

The supporting cast was serviceable. No real standout characters for me here. I actually found some of the actions/ decisions from some of the characters inappropriate and callous - am not sure if it was because of film-culture in 2005 or because it is a Thai drama period quirk but some of the characters who are supposed to be close to Pum hardly empathised with her or understood her. As well-intentioned as some of their actions were, the fact that Pum was put in situations which made her feel very uncomfortable, or was put in circumstances which she really disliked, showed how little those people knew her. Friends or family who care and love you simply don't do this sort of thing to you on a regular basis. I therefore could not really connect or relate to them in a positive way.

So, all said and done, the only glue holding this drama together for me was Mr Ken Theeradeth.

I quite liked the light-hearted background music and score. It helped to keep a lot of the horrid moments less horrid. You're being subconsciously told not to take what was happening on-screen too seriously, and to view them in a lighter way. Great use of it, even if it sometimes seem so incongruous!

Honestly, for me, I would not touch this again with a ten-foot pole because the entire plot premise and lack of character growth sits very ill with me, and because I dislike the character and personality of the main male lead. As much as Ken was amazing, I simply dislike the essence of the character which doesn't improve itself, to really root for him.

Still, for those who don't mind having a male lead with a rather childish, bullying character (it helps that he is only this way to the main female lead, as opposed to intrinsically horrible across the board), you might want to give this show a watch, because Ken does this sort of character amazingly well.

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Nirvana in Fire
3 people found this review helpful
Mar 4, 2017
Overall 10
Story 10
Acting/Cast 10
Music 10
Rewatch Value 10
Nirvana in Fire is, to date, the only drama series out of every single drama series I have seen, whether in C-drama, J-drama or K-drama world, that has surpassed all expectation on every front, for me.

Aside from an initial round of confusion when watching your first run of the first 3-4 episodes, there is nothing further I can think of that really mars the perfection that exists for this drama - storywise.

And may I just say that even the initial confusion of the first 3-4 episodes which is mainly due to the large number of characters being introduced, and the fact that you are thrown literally right into the show without any prior setup of what's going on, no longer exists upon re-watching.
In fact, you will actually realise and appreciate just how intricate and how detailed the writer has been because lots of foreshadowing and information actually exists within the first 3-4 episodes which would have flown by your head upon a first watch, but which makes complete sense upon re-watching.
It really gives you a sense of respect for the writer who has clearly and thoroughly thought through how her story would flow, and has been diligent in embedding subtle but key information throughout the episodes so that as the series progresses towards the mid-way mark, those individual and seemingly disparate threads then come together to form a brilliant picture which then takes your breath away.

The story appears simple - a man who survived a tragedy returns to the capital 12 years later under a new identity to re-dress the horrific wrongs committed.
The execution of the story, however, is FAR from simple.
Like a grandmaster, this man kick-starts things into motion which will change and transform everything, and the way he does it is simply masterful and marvellous to watch.

The pacing of this show is, neither fast nor agonisingly slow. The show takes its time to dwell on certain threads longer than others, which may come across slow and a little boring for some viewers, but patience is a virtue with this series and if you patiently keep on watching, it will become evident that the time spent on those disparate and seemingly unconnected threads will bear much fruit when things come together. You will find yourself marvelling at the level of care and craft that has gone into the storytelling, I promise you.
The best analogy I can give is that of a master sculptor working with a block of wood or ice. At first, all you see is a block. Then, he starts hewing and hacking at certain parts of the block and slowly, a rather vague shape is being formed. As you keep watching the sculptor at work, seeing how he starts to focus on first this section, then that section, the vague shape becomes more discernible and you're able to get a glimpse of the art he is producing. Keep watching and observing and you will see that what was once a block is starting to be transformed into a beautiful piece of artwork and at the end of it, as he puts on the finishing touches, the little carvings here and there, you then marvel to yourself at how amazing it is that he is able to visualise and produce such an outstanding piece of work from just a block of wood or ice.

Since there isn't a section that talks about the cinematography or the sets or the camera-work, I will mention it here.
The cinematography, the scale of the sets and the camera-work is just beautiful. I was informed by friends conversant with the chinese netizen community that some of the directors for the show were art/photography directors, which explains why almost each shot being framed can be screenshotted into a piece of art in itself with its colours and its composition. This makes the show an incredibly beautiful one to watch with every frame and shot a feast for the eyes.
The costumes and the sets were apparently incredibly faithful to the time period in which the show is set, down to the bronze teapots and hand warmers. Court etiquette and forms of greeting and respect were appropriate and in-line with the time period too and apparently the actors had been rigorously trained by experts so that their carriage, their conversation and their movements all conformed accurately and naturally.
A great deal of care and diligence had been put into producing the series and it shows.

The show being so large and sprawling with its cast of characters, there is insufficient time to dwell on the merits of each one of them. Suffice to say that each supporting character played their parts to perfection, nary a redundant character or scene in this series. Every conversation bears some significance or the other.

Another marvel is that, in most drama series, supporting characters, even those that pitch up for maybe just an episode or two, tend to been given short-shrift in terms of their characters or personalities. Not so here. There is hardly a one-dimensional or caricature personality here. All come across real and believably alive in this series whether they be a passing character, or an antagonist, or a protagonist.
This show is alive and full of layered, nuanced and complex characters whose motivations, goals and actions are believably real and understandable, if not sympathetic. You understand where they are coming from and why they behave the way they do as more about them gets unveiled. This is a brilliance of not only the writing, but also the acting of actors playing those characters, in being able to bring them so wonderfully alive and to come across amazingly real.

Spotlight on the main lead.
HU GE, playing the main protagonist of the series is simply outstanding in his subtle, layered and nuanced portrayal of his character, Lin Shu/ Mei Changsu/ Su Zhe - why does he have so many names? Please do watch to find out, and no, it is not confusing in the slightest. Powerhouse performance from Hu Ge who has to play a sickly, restrained and controlled man who, for good reasons, have to hide his true self and keep many secrets and cards close to his chest. His quiet and subtle responses to events and news which directly affect him but which he cannot allow to give him away is mesmerising to watch, and utterly heart-breaking to see. Simply stellar stuff which I've not been able to see the equal of since.

There is not a lot of soundtrack for this series. 3 songs with vocals, and all employed sparingly but impactfully throughout the series. Most of the series is carried by brilliant moments of silence and traditional chinese instrumentals which heighten the tension where it needs to be heightened, and gives poignancy to the scenes which require poignancy. Another masterpiece in music direction as nothing detracts from the scenes but only enhances. Beautiful.

Can i just say that this show is an absolute MUST for re-watching. Not only because it is just THAT GOOD, but also because of the level of intricate detail and storytelling that goes in it. A first watch will never really allow you to fully unpack and appreciate the masterpiece that you have just seen. Scenes, conversations, camera close-ups on objects that seem inconsequential, all of these which did not make too much sense upon a first watch will make complete sense upon a re-watch, causing you to marvel even more at this show.
Seriously, if you have time to watch episode after episode of some sub-par K, C or J-drama, why not spend that time re-watching Nirvana in Fire instead?

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Khun Chai Puttipat
3 people found this review helpful
Jul 16, 2017
Overall 8.5
Story 8.5
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 8.0
Having seen James & Bella in Padiwarada 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, 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 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 RANEE 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 JIRAYU 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 pretty 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 naturally re-watchable. But will probably skip on the extraneous scenes where neither are present. Overall, a true romance series with your sprinkling of drama.

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Overall 6.5
Story 6.5
Acting/Cast 7.5
Music 6.0
Rewatch Value 3.0
I wanted to watch this because the synopsis sounded interesting and I have a soft spot for male-lead-falls-in-love-first, and for a spell of unrequited love angst (a lot of my favourite dramas have this trope, lol).

The synopsis is a good summary of the overarching plot-line of the show. However, it is best to adjust your expectations accordingly if you were expecting a realistic depiction of military manoeuvres or setting, or of proper medical procedures or protocol. I mean, I won't say I'm an expert of both but even I could see how contrived, artificial and 'convenient' certain actions and scenes are played out. Logic or sense or the natural laws of physics, hygiene or danger should be conveniently shelved if you want to enjoy this drama.

Having established that this is a show that likes to bend its settings and circumstances for its own convenience to the plot or to the development of the relationship between characters, you can make lemonade out of lemons by inferring that common sense notwithstanding, everything that later happens on-screen is there to drive the story in a particular direction i.e. to add to the main leads' relationship building, and since both are still essentially alive and well at the end of the show, there really is nothing to be anxious about, come what may.

This may cause some loss of tension during some dramatic scenes but I don't think this show is trying to sell itself as a slick military show, but instead is a romance that happens to be in a military and medical setting.

The pacing of the show is not bad, really. There is a lot of forward movement in plot and in action. The romance is actually rather cute for the first half of the show when the main male lead is on a mission to rescue the main female lead. However, once the rescue mission is over, probably in order to create some conflict so that there is some drama over the second half of the show, the romance starts entering the territory of misunderstandings, missteps, anger, unforgiveness and grovelling. Throw in some additional issues such as terrorist groups, weapons brokering, resistance movements, other love-interests plotting to separate the two, and you have quite an interesting recipe of a show (perhaps to your taste, or perhaps not?).

I personally felt that some of the charm from the initial romance fizzled out towards the second half. And that unrequited love angst and internal conflict which I was so looking forward to from the main male lead was... pretty short-lived and stunted.

I liked the panoramic pans of the mountain scenes and the jungles though! Lovely scenery in this show, where you have them.

Weir Sukollawat - first time seeing him act in a lakorn for me and it took me a while to warm up to him because I'm a little bit of a superficial person and moustaches are not really my thing so that took some adjusting and getting used to. He is not a stiff actor though, and has a knack for carrying off cocky and cheeky personalities. I'm not quite convinced of his ability to carry the internal conflict and angst scenes though, so it was probably just as well that they were not too prolonged. He was a good enough leading man for me in this show, but not really a standout performance.

The leading lady (Pattarasaya, no idea what her nickname is), was also serviceable enough. Perhaps it is the character script but I quite liked her for the first half of the show as a rather assertive but kind volunteer doctor out in the jungle but once the romance hit the rocks after the rescue mission, her character sort of went into a bit of a tailspin, which was a pity.

I quite like the supporting casts though! The Krating team members, the various key people in the resistance groups, especially Chayin, were nice additions to the drama. I also liked seeing how the second female doctor evolved through the series.

Overall, not a bad romance drama placed within a military and medical setting. Don't expect any 'Descendents of the Sun' production slickness or any proper realism from a military or medical perspective and you're good to go!

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Aug 1, 2017
Overall 7.5
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
I dived straight into this Part 5 of the Cupid series without watching any of the earlier parts because, from reading the comments, this part - "Sorn Ruk Kammathep" - appeared to be the best out of the lot (and I did not want to waste my time going through 4 earlier shows just to get here, haha). So, can this part be watched as a stand-alone? YES. I had no problem getting into the show so for those of you who are wondering if you can start with this part right-off-the-bat, the answer is yes, you can. Go for it.

The show kicks off with an rather fun and dynamic introduction to our main leads. On one side of the ring you have Nantisa (Ooy) who can rightly be considered a 'man-hater' in that she has a very very poor view of the male species in general, thanks to the indoctrinations from her mother and grandmother. On the other side is Angoon (Att) who seems to have a fine appreciation of females.
This disparate two are thrown together through a series of coincidences (some contrived) and when Att ends up recruiting Ooy to help him deal with the girls his sister (Bua) is trying to set him up with, cue hilarious hijinks in spades!
I can see why this show is so enjoyable. It is fast-paced, snappy and concise in moving the scenes and the storyline across so there is rarely a dull or draggy moment. It has a fun, light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek vibe which sets the style and tone of the show from the get-go. And of course the antics and situations the leads find themselves can be downright hilarious - plenty of laughs to be had in this show.

 It is not by all means perfect as there are a few bumpy bits (i.e. situations or scenes, and character portrayals, which might incite frustration or hair-pulling), but thankfully the fast-pacing of this show quickly takes you through those humps and things do get resolved rather quickly (huge plus).

A bonus to the show - no psychotic second female lead here! Yes, there are conflicts and tension and misunderstandings sprinkled throughout the show but never always attributed to one mad, irrational person. A refreshing change from your typical Thai lakorn crazy woman trope.

CHEER THIKUMPORN, playing Nantisa (Ooy), killed it in her portrayal as a biased, prejudiced man-hater who, nevertheless, had a heart, especially for her family. She was lively, energetic, motivated and assertive. And rather charming and loveably flawed despite her prejudices. Cheer gives us a heroine which we can all relate to, get behind and root for as she navigates her way through the currents swirling around her. Ooy can also be rather physical too (read: violent) - something which the show has established right from the start in episode 1 - so do be prepared for some man-abuse throughout the show. (A friend of mine wryly noted that there were more hits than kisses, lol).

TOEY PONGSAKORN, playing Angoon (Att), was a great match to Cheer's Ooy. He had a boyish, charming look and smile which made him believable as a person who appreciates and respects women. Gentlemanly and family-oriented, Att is your perfect male lead (maybe too perfect), whose only flaw is being weak to a woman's tears and a softie when it comes to the women he cares about. I thought Toey carried his scenes well and was a good foil to Cheer's Ooy.
In a nutshell, I thought the casting was well done and the acting more than sufficient to carry the show.

Teeny-boppy Cupid theme song, and a couple of nice love ballads here and there. The background sound-effects are out in full-force and while in some scenes it really adds the fun and laughs, in others it can be a little over-done. Still, the sound effect and music give an added fun vibe to this show so overall, sufficiently well done.

Some of the hilarious scenes are re-watcheable, for the laughs. Overall, if you're looking for a light-hearted, fun romantic comedy, this is a good show to watch.

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Fong Sai Yuk
2 people found this review helpful
Aug 7, 2017
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.5
Rewatch Value 9.0
This film is now over 20 years old (!!) but it is such a classic, and such a Jet Li classic too. For Jet Li fans who would like to experience his older works, this is a highly recommended watch because it not only showcases Jet Li's great martial arts in action, but it has the added benefit of being comedic and so brings along not only the action but also the laughs!

Please note that it being such an old show, the production values and the video quality of this show will naturally come across as dated and a little poor. But don't let this put you off because aside from the video quality and the lack of realism of some of the props, the movie is just brilliant.

This film showcases the good old-style directing of kung fu movies at its best. Choreography of the fight scenes is just stellar and of the quality which you will hardly be able to find in kung fu shows these days. None of that slow-motion exaggerated rubbish, none of that CGI stunt nonsense. Nope, this is raw kung fu fight scenes at its best, which means, fast-paced and high tempo. Blink-and-you-will-miss-it kind of goodness. This film won the Hong Kong Film Award and Golden Horse Award for best action choreography during its time!

The comedy in this film does not lie in the choreography or execution of the fights (they are not the Jackie Chan-style funny antics), but rather in the story itself. Fong Sai Yuk and his mother make a brilliant pair of comedic marital arts heros and more than half of the laughs are from the antics of this mother-son duo.

The overarching stories and scenes are reminiscent of the Chinese period in which it is set - Qing dynasty setting in case you've missed it with the pigtails and male queues.
There are a few things going on in this film:-
- traditional chinese match-making of its time period is showcased, where daughters of reputable families are found matches through competitive rounds among her would-be-suitors;
- traditional chinese relationship dynamics of husband-wife;
- covert rebellious activities by rebel societies, and uprisings against what is perceived as oppression by a local tyrant - the definition of what makes a man a hero is often based on his actions and attitudes towards the people, particularly to those who are in need or oppressed; and
- traditional concept of filial piety and responsibility towards parents in that generation.
Lots of traditions and concepts of that time period are very much evident and imbued in this series, making it more than just your average comedic kung fu show. There is a wealth of information about the cultural mores and attitudes of the people in those days, which make for a much more insightful and unique watch experience.

JET LI is simply wonderful as the titular character Fong Sai Yuk. He portrays this cheeky, playful but incredibly talented kung fu lad to the tee. Young and brash but incredibly filial and family-oriented, he is the embodiment of your typical young kung fu hero of his day. His fight scenes are simply stellar and awe-inspiring.
JOSEPHINE SIAO as Fong Sai Yuk's mother is a scene-stealer! Her comedic and weighty moments in the show are on-point, while her own kung fu scenes are as awesome and as brilliant as Jet Li's. And that's saying a huge lot, I'm telling you, because Jet Li is practically the undisputed kung fu specialist of his time.
Both mother-son duo are the lynchpin and the cornerstone of this film - without them, the film would not be as scintillating and brilliant as it is still today.

Memorable traditional chinese instrumentals and songs which heighten and add depth to the show, nothing is out of place.

I have this film on DVD and while it is very well used in terms of it being lent to others for the spreading of the enjoyment of this great show, I will never ever give my DVD away. This show is just too good and too nostalgic - a keeper for sure and wonderfully re-watchable for the laughs and for the kung fu fight scenes.

An awesome kung fu film of the ages - it is not called a Jet Li classic for no reason!

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Jun 30, 2017
Overall 8.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 8.0
This is a review on both "Seven Days: Monday - Thursday", and "Seven Days: Friday - Sunday", because really, the two should be seen in conjunction with each other in order to get a complete viewing experience as both parts make up the whole.

Actually, I read the manga (also helpfully entitled "Seven Days") on which this short 2 episode series is based on, long before I realised that they actually made a live-action version of it. Having enjoyed the short but sweet manga itself and having never seen a proper live-action Boy's Love series prior this one, I was curious enough to check it out.
I will get into the acting for this series in another section but story-wise, both episodes were amazingly faithful and accurate to the manga itself. Here is a short list of just how accurate it was:-
a) The manga itself consists of 2 volumes. The 1st volume being the Monday to Thursday sections, and the second volume having the remaining Friday to Sunday sections. The way the series is split is exactly the same way.
b) Dialogues from the characters are almost word-for-word from the manga.
c) Scenes and events that happen also mirror very closely to those in the manga.
d) What impressed me the most was that even the styling - from the hair, to the way they wear their school uniforms, to even their school bags and the way they carry them, mirrors that in the manga.
It was really as though the manga itself came to life - there were hardly any deviations of it in the live-action series. So, for those who read the manga and enjoyed the story, you would be surprisingly satisfied with this production.
Story-wise, the synopsis is a pretty good summary so I am not sure if I have anything further to add. It really is a simple premise of what started out as a high-school tease between 2 boys to date for a week (seven days), ended up creating feelings which neither were prepared for, and their various insecurities and misunderstandings arising from that.
Like the sound of it? Then do watch. If not, then feel free to give this a pass.

Another thing to note is that the pacing of this live-action short series is rather deliberately slow. I believe that the production team and the director had in mind a pace that was meant to deliberately focus and pause onto the main characters, either to emphasise a scene or an emotion, because this is done consistently throughout the show. It's almost manga-like: you know, that scene where the 2 main leads stare at each other and the wind and leaves just keep blowing by... yeah, that kind of manga-like feel.
If you're not prepared for it, it may sometimes appear as those the scene is being paused, but it's actually a deliberate drawing out of the scene. Some people might find this draggy or boring or weird, but I personally see it as an artistic approach and directorial style, and quite enjoy the slow, deliberate pacing of the show. Most Japanese series tend to be rather snappy and excitable so a mellow, calm-almost-to-stillness show is rather interesting and refreshing as a change.

I've mentioned how the whole setting, down to the styling and the outfits, were practically a mirror to that of the manga. Now how about the actual portrayal of the characters?
YUZURU SHINO - the senior whose cool looks apparently seem at odds with his playful and unpredictable personality. Played by James. Looks-wise, I think James does have that cool look befitting the character but I had hoped that he could have acted a bit more "fly-away" or ditzy just to emphasise the dichotomy between his looks and his personality which many people around Shino keep banging on about. It would have made some of the comments from supporting characters a bit more believable and understandable. As it stood, I felt that we had to just accept what we are being told i.e. that Shino's personality is very different from the way he looks. More tell, rather than show, in this aspect, for me.
Having said that, I thought the rest of how James portrayed Shino was well done. The curiosity, the internal dialogues, the progression of feelings and its by-products of uncertainty and jealousy - I thought these were all expressed pretty well by James in his role.
PS: I also liked the way he holds his bow and arrow, and his shooting stance. It did look very cool and natural.
SERYOU TOUJI - the good-looking junior whose inner desire to find The One has led to an appearance of being indiscriminate when it comes to dating and partners. Played by Tomoki. Looks-wise, I personally found Tomoki to look too old for the junior he should be portraying - and not a little older, but quite a lot older, which was was initially rather jarring when I first started watching. Looks aside, Tomoki did not do too bad a job in bringing out the emotions and the feelings of Touji onto the screen. His acting did not come across as natural or as at ease as James playing Shino, but neither was it so bad that it was too awkward to watch, so I would consider his portrayal to be serviceable for the role.
PS: Tomoki's shooting stance looked awkward, stiff and unnatural to me, compared to James and the supporting cast. Pity because he was supposed to be rather effortlessly good at shooting and it does not really come across in this live-action adaptation. But this is a minor quibble.

Befitting the deliberately slow pace of this show, the background music is instrumental, mellow and rather poignant in tone. I thought it matched the mood and the pacing of the series well and personally found it to be a good enhancement to the scenes in bringing out the moment or the mood. Nice.

Seeing as it is a very short show of only 2 episodes or parts, this is easily re-watchable. Overall, it is quite a well done series, barring my minor quibbles outlined above. I can see myself viewing it again.

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Luk Mai Klai Ton
1 people found this review helpful
2 days ago
Overall 7.5
Story 7.5
Acting/Cast 9.5
Music 7.5
Rewatch Value 5.0
This well-acted, well-directed and well-scripted lakorn unfortunately has very little attention amongst international lakorn viewers and I suspect it's because of:-
a) its age. Aired in 2000, it is not only buried under all the newer productions over the years, but its video quality is not as bright and sharp as these modern HQ shows, and its availability is pretty scarce; and
b) its last 5 episodes are un-subbed, which is probably the biggest stumbling block to any lakorn viewer. I think only the really hardcore would venture to watch it despite knowing they will never be able to fully understand and appreciate the full show in its entirety.

I fully admit that I wasn't really planning to watch this show despite hearing echoes of its quality along lakorn corridors because of the above issues but thankfully, a respected fellow MDL-er took the time and effort to explain and sell this show to me, and after seeing a small video clip which she linked me up to, I was eventually sold. And I'm glad because I would have missed out on a real quality lakorn had it been otherwise.

So, now that that's been said and done, on with the review.

I've begun to notice that older lakorns tend to have better and tighter stories and plots, along with more fleshed out characters, while the newer lakorns these days tend to rely on plot devices such as side-stories, fillers, crazy villains and antagonists, obsessive-to-the-point-of-insane nang'rai's, over-acted and over-dramatised characters, etc. to pull their shows along and keep the viewers' attention focused and excited about their shows.

Well, all I can say is, if you're looking for the latter i.e. the newer lakorn format, then this show will very likely put you off (or let you down) because it has none of those formulas. None. Zero. Nada. This show is old-school in that it has a very focused and tight story to tell, and it remains that way for as far as I could see i.e for the 15 subbed episodes with the rest raw.

I personally would consider this show's primary genre to be a Family Drama. It is extremely character-driven and character-focused. The story focuses very much on the relationships, events and characters in the 2 diamond families, and all the conflict is set and kept within this context so it makes for a very dense and concentrated viewing. If you like dramas like this, then this will be right up your street.

In line with its very focused plot-line and premise, this character-driven show then naturally needs to spend plenty of time to set up the background, the personalities and the internal motivations of each main character as a solid foundation in which to build its drama structure. The pacing is therefore very deliberate and slow because it gives plenty of time for scenes to breathe and for the situations and emotions of the characters to sink in. And because each character within the 2 diamond families in this show has very realistic personality flaws, in some cases even realistically dysfunctional, the show takes its time to show us why, instead of leaving us in the dark.
This is something I really appreciated because for all their biased and sometimes twisted thought-process, you actually understand and get why the characters think or end up that way. You can't hate them or despise them the way you do for one-dimensional stereotypical characters, and this is not an easy feat to achieve without the show setting up their characters so well that you end up understanding them.

Some people might also term this show as a 'social commentary', and I can also understand why because, being so heavily character-driven, it takes the opportunity to introduce to us different characters and different personalities that exist within that social context, and it also wonderfully shows us how each character reacts and deals with a similar situation in different and varied ways because of their different personalities and way of thinking. It's very insightful and eye-opening, and it can also be very thought-provoking because it shows you different perspectives on the same issue. We may not always agree with their way of thinking but I think our minds are broadened by being able to see their viewpoint. There are not many shows that actually allow you to deepen your insight into the different workings of humankind, but this show is one of them.

As for the romance in this show... well, it is a very slow build romance because I don't think romance is this show's primary focus or importance. It does play a very important role in shaping and changing some of our key characters but I see that as just one of the many catalysts embedded in this show. But that's not to say that there is no chemistry or no emotional connection. There are plenty of emotional connections here in this show - maybe even too much sometimes because this show is too good in drawing out the emotional moments of the characters and making you FEEL them for each key scene. Powerful stuff considering that it is able to do this without the help of loud, dramatic music or in-your-face overacting. Serious quality, this.

The only reason I am not able to give a very high rating on this aspect of the show is entirely because of the last 5 un-subbed episodes which I tried to watch but found myself broadly guessing what was going on and what was being said. It is a real pity and shame really, because the dialogue is absolutely key for this show. It explains and clarifies the actions, decisions and motivations of each character so without understanding what was being said, a lot of the context and understanding is lost. I'm dying to know how it all went down in the last 5 and being unable to do that, I cannot, with all the goodwill in the world, complete my rating on the story and execution aspect of this show. But because it has been quality stuff since the beginning, I've still given it a high 7.5. Huge concession for me considering I am sort of left hanging without a proper resolution for this show.

Every single cast member here played their part and were well-rounded, well-fleshed out characters. Impressive achievement in an age where lakorns are filled with one-dimensional or stereotypical supporting or side characters. No filler or character fodder. Amazing.
Lots of characters stood out for me in this show. Lots. And while I am sure this is partly thanks to solid character scripting and assured directing, some credit also needs to go to the actors themselves for bringing their A-game to the show regardless of their screen-time. From P'Manut and his wife P'Orn, to Rasa's two besties, to all the members of the 2 diamond families themselves, all were memorable and relatable characters to me. This show is choc-a-bloc full of quality acting on all fronts, and if I spent the time to talk about them all, I would never finish this review.
I will, however, put the spotlight on one person whose acting really stood head-and-shoulders above the rest and that is Mr Andrew Gregson.

ANDREW GREGSON as Chanon, was a revelation for me. I've not seen any of his lakorns prior to this show so this was my first introduction to this man. My respected fellow MDL-er sang lots of praises about his acting in this show and so my eyes and my expectations were already perked up even before I clicked on episode 1. I didn't think that my high expectations would be met but wow, boy were they met!
I admit that the first 2, maybe even 3, episodes didn't really make me stand up and say wow because, again, of the show's slow and deliberate pace as well as Chanon's personality which was one who carried the weight of his family and the family's diamond business on his shoulders.
This made him into a very serious, no-nonsense and stoic person who had to internally bear and carry a lot of responsibility. He could not allow himself to be too emotionally open because it could worry and burden his family. He had to be the head of his household and so had to be a very self-controlled, strict and shrewd person lest his soft-hearted father and brother be manipulated and exploited by greedy, ill-meaning persons.
His childhood trauma of being abandoned by his mother had also made him wary and rather distrustful of women. Personally, I wouldn't blame him for being distrustful of women even without the added factor of his mother because being heir to one of the largest diamond companies in the country is enough to attract all sorts of mercenary or status-hungry women.
But as the show progressed and with the re-appearance of his mother who had left some over 20 years ago, Chanon was faced with feelings and issues which he had been suppressing and denying to himself over the years, and the way Andrew Gregson brought all of that internal conflict out in Chanon was seriously emotionally heart-breaking to behold.
The scenes which really sit with me were the scenes where he is trying so hard to keep his emotions and his tears under control but they come leaking out despite his best efforts. The way his voice quivers, the way he hesitates as he tries to give voice to some of the turmoil going on inside, and the way he quickly spits his sentences out as though he has to quickly get it out before he loses the courage to say it, hits you right in the heart. And the way he tries to explain his reasons and his rationale while fighting back tears while he speaks to his father or his brother is so heart-breaking.
For me, there is nothing more emotionally powerful than having to witness someone emotionally distraught and on the verge of tears but trying their damn hardest to NOT break down, to NOT burst into tears.
It's easy to turn on the tap and give in and cry, but to try not to cry even though you want to? Bam! Sold. I'm in.
Of all the characters in this lakorn, it was Chanon who had me empathising and sympathising with him every single step of the way. He was brought believably into life by Andrew so, for that, Andrew gets the gold star from me.

I can't say enough how much I wish the last 5 episodes were subbed so that I can see this entire lakorn to the finish, but suffice to say, even despite not being able to complete it, the first three-quarters of the show was already amazing in being able to show us how quality lakorns look like. It's truly a damn crying shame that they don't make them like this anymore.

Good background music and score. I particularly appreciate how they don't bludgeon you over the head with continuous playing of character theme songs but relied a lot more on instrumental versions and appropriate mood music.

If some kind soul could sub the last 5 episodes so that I can have my closure on this wonderful lakorn, that would be greatly and deeply appreciated. I'd love to re-watch this if I could but not with an inconclusive ending...

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Fong Sai Yuk II
1 people found this review helpful
Aug 7, 2017
Overall 8.5
Story 8.5
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 8.5
Rewatch Value 8.5
In terms of its storyline/ plot and its balance of comedy and action, it is generally well-known that this second part of the Fong Sai Yuk film series is not quite as well-executed or as well-balanced as the first film, but it is still a very enjoyable ride for those who like a light-hearted action-comedy kung fu movie.

As per the synopsis of this show, this is a continuation from where the first film 'Fong Sai Yuk' left off. There is more intrigue and more undercover/ plotting scenes which make way for less comedic sections, so I think the film tries to compensate by making some scenes rather funnily cliche, instead of from pure comedic timing and content.

But the mother-son duo is back and as scintillating as ever, so this show is still a great watch. The fight scenes are still brilliantly executed, with new stunts and action sequences that are amazing and breath-taking to watch.

JET LI - is as great as ever as the titular Fong Sai Yuk. He grows up a bit more in this film - in the first, he was still a rather immature and rash young man in the full flush of youth and still having youthful ideals. Here, having gone through some of the trials and having his eyes opened from events in the first film, he has a more serious and weighty personality. As a member of a resistance group and god-son of a well-known people's hero, he has more responsibilities thrust upon him, in addition to his newly married state.
It makes for different sort of conflicts and tensions compared to the first film. Jet Li carries it all well, and of course, the action sequences are as stellar as ever.
JOSEPHINE SIAO - as Fong Sai Yuk's mother, remains a hilariously wonderful character. Unfortunately, her screen time is not as lengthy as the first film as she has to make way for the build-up of the plot, as well as for other supporting characters introduced in this second instalment. Which is a bit of a shame because her scenes and her interactions with Fong Sai Yuk are what makes the films so sparklingly good.

As this film has more going on in terms of story/ plotline, there is therefore more supporting characters being introduced. It's a bit of a hit-or-miss with them but they carry the story along. Seriously, the brightest gems in the film are really Jet Li and Josephine Siao - all others pale in comparison to them.

As per the first film, it is suitably aligned to the time period and to the style and tone of the film.

Definitely re-watchable and a good sequel to the first film. The quality of the action scenes have certainly not dropped so this film is watchable, even for that alone.

A good follow-up to its brilliant first film.

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