15 October 2012

Movie Review: It Gets Better ไม่ได้ขอให้มารั

I did not know what I was going to be watching except that there were going to be multiple stories about Thai gay life. This movie definitely has three stories and all involve transgenderism. The first is of the woman pictured above, an aging post-op transgender on a vacation to the bucolic Northern Thai country side. The second is of a young Thai man returning to Thailand from the US to deal with his recently deceased father's business. The third story is of a Thai adolescent who enters the monastery after his father catches him parading about the house in his dead mother's clothes.

These stories show the multiple facets of transgender life in Thailand from multiple angles and perspectives where sometimes gay and transgender blur and sometimes gay and transgender are in sharp relief, sometimes there are neither good nor bad guys and sometimes there are good and bad guys. Most importantly it sheds light on the complexities of transgender life in a country where tolerance of transgenderism is not the same as acceptance or understanding of transgenderism.

It is a touching story with a number of very handsome actors. If you are transgender or gay in an Asian country, it would be impossible not to like the movie. The story that I felt most drawn to was the third story of the Thai adolescent who entered the monastery. He did not want to enter the monastery until he sees one of the senior monks -- who the boy decides is a hottie. The story really addresses the limitations of classical Buddhist monasticism (vinaya) with sexuality and gender variation.

Anyone who is raised Buddhist and had extended contact with monasteries is familiar with the very gay atmosphere. Yet, it is a shadow feature of the monastery where a young monk simply has to watch his ass. The story teased at why I decided not to go the route of full ordination as a monk and instead lead the life of a householder. This story is the most minor of the three stories but the one I identified the most with although I felt affinity to all three.

I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to more movies with this kind of nuance in Thai cinema.

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