out of Five
Running time: 102
An enjoyable Thai drama with a poignant message, Hi-So has a notable script and some admirable performances, but the slow pacing and lack of spark in the second act can make it a little arduous to watch.
What’s it all about?
Directed by Aditya Assarat, Hi-So stars Ananda Everingham as Ananda, a rising actor, who returns to Thailand from the US after he lands a part in a coveted film that promises to make him a star. When Zoe (Cerise Leang), his American girlfriend, turns up to stay with him and becomes uneasy with his rising fame and attention, the couple grow increasingly distanced.
When Ananda spies May (Sajee Apiwong), a member of the film’s production crew, further complications ensue. Taking us through the entire process of the movie (from production to post-production), Hi-So is a coming of age tale, focusing on Ananda’s realisation that his life is changing and that he must revisit his past and analyse his present to find out where he stands and what he really wants from life.
Set against the metaphorical backdrop of a post-tsunami Thailand, Hi-So is an enjoyable and occasionally moving film with a notable script, which is subdued and effective. Thai director Aditya Assarat makes a wise decision to make sure the camera spends a lot of alone time with both Zoe and May and as a consequence, Zoe becomes a well-developed character and May doesn’t come across as wholly unlikeable for being, in so many words, ‘the other woman’.
Two standout scenes involve a lonely Zoe spending a lot of time with the hotel staff whilst Ananda is on set. The first is a kind of Lost In Translation moment, where Zoe invites herself to a maid’s birthday party and makes a forced attempt to socialise with the hotel crew in a cramped staff room. The second sees Zoe being taken to the spot of the tsunami aftermath and looking at the physical wreckage and reflecting on her own emotions. These scenes are magnetic to watch as Zoe’s isolation, loneliness and regret become increasingly palpable and Cerise Leang is admirable in her performance in both scenes. In addition, Ananda Everingham also delivers a strong performance, lending an endearing and vulnerable quality to his character that makes him essentially likeable.
Hi-So is a film of two halves. The first half concentrates completely on Ananda and Zoe’s relationship and the second on Ananda’s relationship with May. This switch from Zoe to May happens very suddenly and comes as a bit of a nasty shock, as Zoe’s absence from the film is unfortunately missed. Ultimately, May feels like a bit of an empty character with little spark to offer the film and as a result the film lacks a certain energy and some scenes fall a little flat. Some of the scenes designed to show comparisons between Zoe and May also feel a little contrived and the slow pacing can make many parts feel strenuous.
Despite its faults, Hi-So is a fairly pleasing and beautifully shot film with a balanced view, memorable scenes and an attractive narrative. Worth seeing.