The following is a review written for Easternkicks.com and reposted here. Hello Stranger was originally viewed at the East Winds Film Festival 2013 (UK Premiere)
Two tourists from Thailand meet in unconventional circumstances during a vacation to Korea, disjointed and humorous adventures then ensue for the duo
Hello Stranger. Thai, 2010 Rom-Com
Director: Banjong Pisanthanakun
Director Banjong Pisanthanakun (Shutter. Alone) returns with a ‘Hello Stranger’, a cheerful rom-com about an unnamed male and female travelling in Thailand whilst on holiday. The sappy, but humorous, story of the duo continues on their travels around the country, as they explore the connections with each other and their own selves. A detour from his usual blood-curling horror films, Director Banjong’s box office hit is a film that resounds on all levels.
During a vacation to Thailand, of which he is coerced into by his friends with only the clothes on his back, the man (Chantavit Dhanasevi) joins with and then subsequently loses the package tour group he is travelling on. Speaking little English and despairing at his situation, the man attaches himself to a fellow Thai girl he comes across (Nuengthida Sophon) by chance and they explore Thailand together.
Refusing to get attached to each other, they decide not to learn the names of one another and instead
refer to themselves as Dang (Dhanasevi) and May (Sophon), giving the pair the chance to be brutally honest with each other. However as one is recently dumped, and the other escaping from a clingy, possessive boyfriend, hints are all around that there’s going to be temptation of some form going on.
The disenchanted young Dang forces himself upon the outgoing May as she is on the way to the wedding of her Korean pen-pal, as Dang blames her for making him miss the tour coach, then imposes himself on May’s company and demands he travel around Korea with her. Starstruck and determined to carry on with her schedule, the young May drags the snooty Dang around to all the tourist locations for a popular South Korean TV drama. After a series of events, the two put their differences aside and team up to explore the country.
It’s on this journey thay the new-found friendship blossoms between Dang and May, at first where she was condescending and he too playful, the characters become more real as they explore the ups and downs of the emotional spectrum on the road. The script gradually puts the duo through their paces, in situations including a small wedding, copious gambling and getting attacked in the face by a squid, Dang and May grow closer as they travel further across the country in the company of each other.
Banjong Pisanthanakun seems easily relaxed, albeit handling the romance genre for the first time, however the combination of comedy and love is delivered subtly and you’ll find yourself laughing along, liking the characters more as they grow together in their friendship. Even though the film is just over two hours long, it doesn’t feel laborious to watch, however numerous side plots and lengthy partings/rejoinings
(which could easily become laborious) help to keep the pacing of ‘Hello Stranger’.
Despite all this, the film feels tenser in the first act than it deservedly needs. Through the exposition of the opening narrative, the characters are incredibly closed and the story itself feels more forcibly delivered, yet after a certain event part-way in Dang and May begin to relax, and the film itself relaxes with them. Suddenley the film becomes a lot funner as the two characters enjoy themselves and allow the audience the chance to enjoy the film, as whilst fun up until this point, it gives the impression a dam has broken and the underlying tension from the script has disappeared, finally falling into a fun comedic jaunt.
As experienced, it’s easy to see that Thailand has no shortage of brilliant talent in the film industry, and the film is a welcome change from Director Pisanthanakun’s usual blooded horror. The light hearted far-fetched nature of the film sticks to all the rules, with little in the way of plot development aside from the usual, though that is to be expected from the first tentative genre outing.
Overall, ‘Hello Stranger’ is a fabulous film that only gets better as it continues, and despite the length it doesn’t feel strenuously long. The actors themselves have beautiful chemistry, however I’d advise bringing some tissues as the unexpected emotional twists are the true hidden scare in this movie.