Sunday, August 16

Dear Galileo (Thailand, 2009)

Dear Galileo,

Betcha never imagined while musing about the motions of bodies that you would centuries later inspire a film about two silly girls who blindly embark on a journey to the other side of the(ir) world with only your theory (of objects falling in uniform acceleration independent of their masses) and a couple of rocks to put that theory into a test to guide them through life-changing decisions.

Consequently, there is a lot of falling in this movie. It begins with best friends Noon (Jarinporn Joonkiat) and Cherry (Chutima Theepanarth) bungee jumping off a bridge to seal their no-fear pact to set off for Europe; Noon hopes to get over a heartbreak, and the other wants to prove her school's decision to expel her wrong. The girls agree to tour and work across Europe indefinitely, and this is where the film takes a familiar turn, at least when it comes to Philippine cinema.

We actually have coined a name for illegal immigrants/workers: TNT or tago ng tago (literally, in English, err, hide and hide), which just goes to show how "ordinary" this has become to the Filipino experience. The similarities of practice---the girls working in restaurants, the running from migration officers, the street-smartness of saving up cash sometimes by cheating or in the movie's case, slipping through the subway turnstile---made me smile. And a little sad.

What makes this film different though is the light-heartedness, the teen-flickness of treatment. This is not some gritty drama about illegal immigrant workers; it's a winsome fairytale that sometimes gets a little too precious. In the Paris subway, Noon hears a dark, handsome stranger speaking in Thai and stalks him. It turns out that the guy, Pisit, played by Ray MacDonald with refreshingly relaxed (read: adult) cynicism, has been living in Paris for quite some time and is staying in a commune with other immigrants and artists. But it's all very wholesome, kiddies.

Joonkiati and MacDonald have a delightful chemistry (though I'm a little uncomfortable with age gap) and are responsible for one of the genuinely warm moments of the film: in a sea of a busy crowd, Noon and Pisit raise placards with questions, written in Thai, that read Raise your hands if you can read this, and my favorite Raise your hands if you miss home. A few passersby raise their hands shyly, some more enthusiatically, all very naturally that I have a feeling that the scene was not staged.

The film is as saccharine as it sounds and mostly gets by with charm and giggling but director Nithiwat Tharatorn has an incandescent eye for capturing the overwhelming grandness and melancholy of Europe's old cities and architecture. His camerawork is also fascinating. His hand held shots has fierce immediacy that gets you into the heat of the panic, especially that bit in the subway where the camera follows the girls running from the police, shaky and stumbling, then blinding daylight. It left me breathless. And it's a sign that Thanatorn can make a great movie if he really puts his mind, and camera, to it.

So, dear, dear Galileo, your theory turned out to be simplified metaphor on the gravity of consequences that was barely carried through until the end of the film but you will be glad to hear that, from the sighs and gleeful laughter that filled the cinema, you're now quite popular with the kids and I'm quite certain that we'll be seeing girls all across Bangkok invoking your guidance and dropping stones off bridges.

In motion,

Rating: 3/5

Dear Galileo (Nee Tam Galileo/หนีตามกาลิเลโอ)
Directed by Nithiwat Tharatorn (Fan Chan, Seasons Change)
Starring Pom Chutima Theepanarth (Hormones), Toey Jarinporn Joonkiat, Ray MacDonald (Fun Bar Karaoke)