Thursday, May 14, 2009

Movie Review: Handle Me With Care (Thailand)

Part of the 2009 Silk Screen Film Festival.
. The Silk Screen Film Festival runs through Sunday, May 17.

Handle Me with Care is the story of a Thai villager (Kwan) with one special trait. He has three functional arms. In all other respects, he is quite ordinary. But it means that he is the subject of talk and teasing. And he has a hard time finding a girlfriend, because when he does find someone, she gets scared off by all the attention he gets everywhere he goes. His solace has been his mother and uncle. His mother died a year before the movie. And at the beginning of the movie, his uncle, a tailor, dies. And now the burden is too much, and he takes up the offer of a high-profile Bangkok doctor for a free amputation of one arm, with the hopes that he can blend into society like everyone else. And with limited funds (he is a poor villager) he heads off to Bangkok.

Along the way he meets up with a woman (Na) who is also trying to head to Bangkok. To see her husband who ran away a year ago to the big city. And she has a slightly more common attention getter. She is well endowed, and everywhere she goes, her breasts get the attention.

Much of the movie is Kwan trying to push Na away, and Na asking why he wants to change. The other major theme of the movie is Na observing Kwan's character in action (it is almost cliche for the physically deformed character to have a heart of gold a la the Disney version of Quasimodo.)

Kwan's question is how much changes when the physical differences are gone. People in the village still treat him the same. He has the same relationships with everyone (except his boss, who does not like the fact that his job performance went down.)

So the end of the movie, Kwan is looking at his life before, and now. And thinking about what the future holds. And he makes the observation that what makes his mother and uncle so precious is they dealt with him as a person, not as a curiousity. So he goes to join someone else who does the same. Na (who has returned to her village), who welcomes him (her mother had told her prior to the movie "you either come back with your husband, or you find a new one")

Slightly cheesy. But given the number of ways we (society) find to declare people as freaks, it works to give a bit of empathy. And having a third arm that is not an actual handicap was a good plot device to do this. It is notable that the only real handicap was other people's reactions, because it is not actually a handicap. Very much like some qualities that leads parts of society to declare people as freaks today.

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