Witthaya Thongyuyong’s ‘Brother of the Year’ gives you more than what you expect for.
Thai production studio GDH’s follow up to the smash hit Bad Genius doesn’t bear a high-concept premise but rather a crowd-pleasing subject that will resonate most to Asian viewers. Heavily marketed as a sibling comedy with a dash of romcom, Brother of the Year, surprises you with a melodramatic second half. It may be faulted for its hefty run time – the plot points move from a blackmail story to a long-distance relationship story, then finally to a reconciliation story, but this charmer succeeds in delivering various emotional beats to elicit laughters and tears in one seating.
What’s seen in the film’s trailer is mostly just the first act. Advertising agent Chut’s (Sunny Suwanmethanont) grubby bachelor lifestyle gets spoiled by the return of his overachieving younger sister Jane (Urassaya “Yaya” Sperbund) from Japan. Forced to live under the same roof, the responsible half immediately sets new ground rules and cleans up her brother’s unattended mess, including an exaggerated heap of dirty laundry. While never-do-well Chut, annoyed by her comeback, makes sure that her life will be a living hell. The imminent personality clash between the two is only a history of their deep-seated rivalry. The film recounts this through childhood flashbacks, including a hilarious story of how Chut got his embarrassing nickname “Coochie.”
With both siblings having alpha personalities, the film entertains you with the pranks that they pull at one another. The resulting humor, complemented with wacky and over-the-top sound effects, occasionally veers to uneventful slapstick but nevertheless, a sense of realism remains in their dynamic. It works because the film subtly shows the psychology behind their actions. Chut channels his inferiority complex by aggravating Jane’s neat freak senses and scaring away her suitors. On the other hand, Jane over-develops a sense of responsibility towards her brother who fails to be a role model in every aspect.
The feud extends to their professional work lives when Jane starts dating her senior colleague Moji (Nichkhun Horvejkul), a client that Chut wants to sign a deal with. Chut, not approving of their relationship, orchestrates some form of blackmail, and the two siblings become even more hostile at each other, putting their careers at risk. One can think that Chut does his immature actions because he feels unappreciated and left out should Jane gets married in the future, leaving him alone for good. It’s quite complex considering that he wants to kick her out of the house in the first place. Given that it works on the context of a love-hate relationship, you can still wrap your finger around it.
As for the romcom aspect, Brother of the Year plays Jane and Moji’s development with a perfunctory and somehow lackluster execution. The resulting chemistry works more because of Yaya and Nichkhun’s physical compatibility. Nichkhun (of Korean boy band 2PM) is mostly used for eye candy and a catalyst for conflict. The film does not utilize him much in the siblings’ dynamic when he has the potential to do more, like being a mediator for example. As a result, he is overshadowed by the two most of the time. Without a doubt, Chut and Jane’s relationship proves to be the strongest emotional core here.
Ultimately, what makes this film a memorable experience is its poignant third act. As the film shows how unresolved minor issues can drive larger emotional wedges in relationships, it’s heartbreaking to see how the two siblings slowly grow apart because of their pride. There comes a point where you realize that you care for these characters more than you think of. The film has its sly manner of switching its gears to an emotional and more meaningful story. Actors Sunny and Yaya both deliver convincing and versatile performances throughout.
Brother of the Year ends in a more sweet and powerful note than expected. The film, starting off as an annoying comedy, sets itself to low expectations only to surprise its audiences with profound realizations, as well as plenty of multicultural insights along the way. It could’ve been more potent with a restrained run time but this is something that anyone can relate to, regardless if you’re an only child. Our egos often take family members for granted and it’s never too late to reconcile with them. It’s a cliche message that nonetheless rings with veracity. Brother of the Year silently creeps it to your core.
4 out of 5 stars
Directed by Vithaya Thongyuyong, ‘Brother of the Year‘ stars Sunny Suwanmethanont, Urassaya Sperbund, Nichkhun Horvejkul, Anchuleeon Buagaew and Chanchalerm Manasaporn. Run time: 125 minutes