Quick Hit: Isn’t every movie better with an elephant?
If my Quick Hit for the day didn’t give it away, I’m a large fan (pun delightfully unintended) of pachyderms. Even though a lot of times they are used poorly (I’m looking at you Operation Dumbo Drop), at times they can be really endearing. Look no further than a buddy comedy like Larger than Life to show that sometimes an elephant just makes things better. In the case of today’s SLIFF movie, Pop Aye, the gentle giant of the earth makes a buddy travel dramedy better as well.
Thana (Thaneth Warakulnukroh) is an aging architect. First being bumped out of a company that seemed to hinge on his early success, he realizes he is struggling at home with his wife, who pays more attention to shopping than him. One day he finds a childhood friend – Pop Aye, the elephant who he once taught the theme song from the cartoon. As a type of penance for actions, as well as a yearning for something different than the city, Thana decides to return Pop Aye to his childhood home.
What follows is a beautiful, if at times confusing, trip through the countryside of Thailand. There’s the normal hijinks that follow in a road comedy – like run ins with the cops, when one of them goes missing… but there’s also some remarkably tender moments. One involves Thana meeting Dee, who seems like he’s homeless. After treating him to some food, he buys him a motor scooter because Dee states his one thing to do before he dies is to ride through the countryside with his wife.
We later revisit Dee in tragic fashion, but there’re other characters that Thana runs into along the way. The road ends with Thana’s Uncle Peak, who Thana accuses of selling out because their country home is now an apartment complex. There’s a lot of drama surrounding all of Thana’s life, but the one thing that is constant is Pop Aye, played by Bong. Elephants are incredibly intelligent creatures, and you can see this in Bong – he has a tendency to react exactly as you would expect him to, often in really moving ways.
There’s parts of Pop Aye that work really well, but there seems to be some pieces missing – or maybe just the ordering should have been handled differently. Director/Writer Kristen Tan chooses to tell the story in a series of flashbacks, which ends up making the story fairly confusing. This is due to the editing as well – there’s almost nothing to break up the scenes – one moment we’re in the present and in the next we’re back to the past. It breaks a lot of the narrative momentum that is built from the forward motion of the story.
Pop Aye will at times warm your heart, will make you chuckle at its wry humor, but it will also confuse you in others. I’m going to give it a “B-“. Pop Aye screens at SLIFF 2017 tonight 11/9/2017 at Plaza Frontenac at 9:00p. It also shows tomorrow at 11/10/2017 at 7:05p. Here’s the SLIFF page!
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"