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‘Homestay’ review: Supernatural drama of second chances

Thai fantasy thriller ‘Homestay’ is a wonderful adaptation made amusing by Parkpoom Wongpoom’s artistic vision.

Homestay is a Thai adaptation of Japanese fantasy novel Colourful by Eto Mori which was written in 1999 and translated into Thai in 2003 as “Mua Sawan Hai Rangwan Phom.”. From the trailer, it looks like the typical cross of romance and resurrection film, but it is actually more than what is shown. The film starts as something supernatural and it quickly hooks in its audiences by offering a little mystery-solving thrill. Then the tone suddenly becomes light on the succeeding acts, turning its small moments into fun-filled and cheesy segments. The film is basically a mixed genre of supernatural experience and family drama which leads to profound existential realizations in life. The story brings a heart-warming take to teenage problems of dysfunctional family, peer pressure and depression making this film a much more interesting viewing experience from where it initially started.

This film is about a wandering soul who’s given a new shot at life by “the Guardian” (Nopachai Chainam) when he finds himself reincarnated in the body of a high-schooler named Min (Teeradon Supapunpinyo). But much like the film’s namesake, ‘homestay’ (where someone temporarily stays with a local during a trip), Min’s body is not permanent and it comes with a condition. Within 100 days, he has to find out who is responsible for “Min’s death” or else, he will die and leave this medium for eternity, never to be reborn again.

As the new Min, he resumes a life with his newfound family: his workaholic and distant father (played by veteran DJ Viroj Khwantham), his go-with-the-flow mother (Suquan Bulakul) and his smarter and overachieving older brother (Nutthasit Kotimanus-wanich). His new life takes a turn for the better when he meets his tutoring partner and mentor Pi (BNK48’s leader Cherprang Areekul) and develops an intimate connection with her, making him want to stay in this body for good.

Director Wongpoom creates a positive story and keeps the essence of teenage issues based from the novel. With its heavy and sensitive subject matter, the film could’ve easily gone a darker path. Instead, Wongpoom focuses on Min’s character metamorphosis – on how he’s gone from a reluctant and coward soul to an assured and self-actualized being. He wants to make Min’s more interesting by not painting him entirely as a suicide victim, but as a multi-dimensional person who has hopes, dreams and frustrations.

On the creative side, Parkpoom effectively uses The Guardian and Min’s task as a metaphor for suicide therapy through showing the viewers how Min’s character has changed while searching for reasons why Min decided to take his life. It’s refreshing and bold to see Min’s supernatural experiences as he goes along the process of redeeming himself from a suicide attempt. For Min is a vulnerable soul, it will be inspiring to see his change in perspective. Such sends a good message to its audience: that it is possible to live a happier life by not looking down at our situation but rather empathizing with the people who unintentionally hurt our feelings.

The concept of the film relates to the non-attachment principle, which states that everything will come and depart eventually, including life itself. When the spirit is first placed in Min’s body, he lives freely and joyfully, the spirit looking at Min’s life as an outsider. But once Min realizes that he’s taking charge of someone else’s life and understands the rare opportunity that is given to him, he finally starts owning his borrowed body and maximizing the second chance that was bestowed upon him.

Homestay is crafted with a lot of effort as it mixes second chances and family drama. The effects are striking, mostly comical, and the film conveys a simple yet bold message for its viewers. The acting is remarkably done starting from the star of Bad Genius Teeradon Supapunpiyo who bolsters the entire film with his best appearance since his early roles. He maintains his level of charm and believability regardless whether he’s delivering a comedic or dramatic performance While Areekul gives a big revelation in her debut role, proving that she is more than just a pretty face. Despite having a slow pace and few lapses when it comes to plot progression, this is one of those good films produced by GDH (Gross Domestic Happiness). It stacks up in the mid-level of quality films that GDH has produced.

Homestay is a film with a big heart that puts a big emphasis on the importance of life. It’s a treat for teens who are in need of a fresh perspective in their seemingly overbearing lives. It’s a Thai film for everyone who wants to be touched by quality films.

4 out of 5 stars
Directed by Parkpoom Wongpoom, ‘Homestay’ stars Teeradon Supapunpinyo, Cherprang Areekul, Suquan Bulakul, Viroj Khwantham, Nutthasit Kotimanus-wanich, Saruda Kiatwarawut and Nopachai Chainam. Run time: 131 minutes.
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