Starring: Nawarat Grace Techaratana-prasert, Patcharasri Benjamas
Director: Siwaporn Pongsuwan
Category: I (Thai and Cantonese versions)
On paper, A Bite of Love reads like yet another tear-jerker exploiting the hackneyed theme of a pure and innocent bond between a child and a dog being torn apart by the big, bad world of cynical adults.
Nor are suspicions about the film's artistic (not to mention commercial) merit allayed by the fact that the lead character, 10-year-old Kao Niew, is played by the daughter of the project's financier.
And yet A Bite of Love manages to rise above it all. Rather than rely on canine cuteness to carry the day, director Siwaporn Pongsuwan has fleshed out a tale of solitude and loss into a metaphor for urban life in bustling Bangkok. And young star Nawarat Grace Techaratana-prasert proves her worth, portraying well the anguish of a child who belongs nowhere. In a world of strangers - and despite the loss of her puppy Moo Ping - she battles against the odds to make a life for herself.
In her debut feature, Siwaporn draws a parallel between the tribulations of stray dogs and abandoned children, which sets A Bite of Love apart from most of the saccharine animal films coming out of Hollywood or Tokyo.
Kao Niew has been left by her mother in the care of relatives. She finds and cares for a puppy she calls Moo Ping. Both of them are society's strays. When the relatives discover and get rid of Moo Ping, Kao Niew runs away to find the puppy.
There's no escaping the trappings of the genre: the histrionic score, and the inevitable frantic chase after the dog-catcher's vehicle. But Siwaporn injects sporadic in-jokes that tear at the unfolding melodrama. The dialogue between the dog-catching duo - when they discuss the commercial appeal of films with dogs in them - is a welcome piece of self-parody.
And Nawarat's turn as Kao Niew - a performance shorn of the sort of pretentiousness many child stars dish out - helps lift A Bite of Love out of the ordinary.