Starring: Makara Supinacharoen, Jirarat Teachasriprasert, Eric Chu
Directed by: Bill Yip Kim-fung
Category: IIB (Thai and Cantonese)
From its opening in the 'City of Angels' (Bangkok) to the celestial dashboard figures in the protagonist's car and a concluding episode thousands of kilometres away involving cherubic wings, Cure is something of a miracle.
The original scenario of Hong Kong screen veteran Bill Yip Kim-fung's directorial debut was scrapped just days before shooting commenced, a casualty of Thai censorship, and last year's political upheaval added to an impossible situation compounded by the director's serious injuries in a traffic accident. The crew made things up as they went along, and the results are surprisingly coherent, though, as in many road movies, the parts don't quite add up to a cohesive whole.
But viewed as a series of loosely related vignettes, a compelling emotional portrait emerges of New (Makara Supinacharoen), a young con-man with a conscience who is desperate to raise funds for a loved one's operation.
The opening sequence in the then strife-torn capital, with New trying to make a delivery in barricaded streets thick with soldiers and Red Shirts, lensed on real locations with real troops and protesters, is raw and effective in a manner that could never be achieved by big-budget re-enactments.
Forced to leave Bangkok, New hits the road to peddle fake potency pills with the help of Cantonese-speaking partner in crime Eric (Eric Chu, above right with Makara). The light-hearted scheme is reminiscent of the bible-selling tactics of the ne'er-do-wells in Paper Moon. Until the tone abruptly turns tragic - just one of several sudden shifts in gear as New wends northwards to Phitsanulok, Sukhothai, Chiangmai, and Pai.
The most touching episode involves New's encounter with Sarah (Jirarat Teachasriprasert), an ageing chanteuse in a tawdry roadside dive whose grotesqueness is gradually peeled away to reveal an affecting poignancy. Sarah's tale is compelling enough to warrant feature-length treatment.
Less convincing is New's falling head over heels for the free-spirited Poo (Siriwan Khankham), whose mum owns the guesthouse in which he temporarily resides. Though the debut performance by Siriwan is wonderfully unaffected, lack of adequate scripting robs the love story of emotional nuance.
New eventually arrives at his destination, where the filmmakers attempt to tie up loose ends and impose a sense of closure. The conclusion only serves to emphasise that Cure's virtue lies in its display of a spontaneity rarely glimpsed in studio projects, proving that in some cinematic jaunts, getting there is more than half the fun.
Cure opens today