Aww escapes your lips, unaware like a sigh, and there's no fighting it. Fan Chan (แฟนฉัน) disarms with its sharp eye for gauzy details making the childhood nostalgia surface like a rubber ball bobbing up and down, foolishly playful among the debris of adult apprehension. You want to stay here in the land of rubber bands and Gumamela soups where freedom's just another word for kung fu role play.
Many have attempted to bottle childhood but have done so by skipping the dirt that a bicycle kicks up or the sourness of the sweat. Some mistake melodrama for meaning and riddle the innocence with tragic awakenings. But there is no concern for meaning when school is out and you're 8 years old and about to dive into a river butt naked.
Fan Chan is cleverly simple: a young man, Jeab, learns about the wedding of Noi Nah, a childhood friend---a playground sweetheart---and goes back to their last weeks together before they separated ways. The six young screenwriters/directors who debut with this film have the riffs of memory perfected; a Thai pop song is the chirpy time machine to a small town in Thailand in the 1980s. Jeab (Charlie Trairat) and Noi Nah (Focus Jirakul) have been friends since birth, have fathers who are rival barbers and mothers who are best friends. Jeab wakes up late for school everyday, and everyday, Jeab and his father would chase the bus on a bike midway to school. On the bus, he meets an all-boy gang led by the school bully Jack (Chaleumpol Tikumpornteerawong) who constantly poked fun at Jeab and Noi Nah's closeness. Boys will be boys and Jeab was made to choose between playing Chinese Garter (or rubber band jump-rope according to Wikipedia) with Noi Nah or foot ball with Jack and his gang.
The film's English title, My Girl, is quite a turn-off because it reminded me of that Home Alone kid's movie of the same title, the one where it was all cuddly cute until he died. From bee stings, thank you very much. Fan Chan in contrast is unsentimental, which I think is a very, very brave move. Bittersweet is as far as it goes, that accidentally romantic rubber band bit at the end is quite a heartbreaker but as the grown up Jeab confesses, he got over it quickly...why, hello kite.
I am amazed at the similarity of experience; I played the same rubber band games and "brewed" the same nasty flower stew---I even tried the slimy soup at one point, not at all good--- and in a palpable way I was recollecting my own sweat-stained childhood down the tiny but heavily crowded streets of Sampaloc, Manila. Fan Chan is not about the plot, it is a celebration of days running wild with laughter, of the kind of recklessness that only comes with innocence. It deliberately meanders around endless afternoons of playing and bruising (much like My Neighbor Totoro's wide-eyed treks into the forest). And discovering new ways to have fun which, really, childhood is all about.
Minutes after the movie had finished, I began to wonder when I started fearing falling down flat on my face When did making mistakes stop being fun, when did letting go become so difficult?
Look everybody, no hands!
A song from the Fan Chan OST. Technicolor synth-pop, aw yeah.
รักคือฝันไป - Ost.fanchan