FAR EAST, SOUTH ASIA AND AUSTRALASIA

I’m not entirely sure what the point of this film was. Written and directed by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, it opens with on-screen text informing the viewer that a mayfly lives for just 24 hrs, followed by the statement that the film is a personal memoir of the years between between 2012 and 2017. A timer counts down the seconds on the top left of the screen, a sledge-hammer of a memento mori. We’re not here for nuance.

Trailed as a film about “today”, about the “day before”, it opens with a group of female students celebrating in a hotel room. They drink beer and read their horoscopes and discuss their aspirations; their graduation ceremony will take place the next morning. Having run out of beer, someone needs to go out for more supplies. Then comes the stark statement “24 May 2017: a 21 year old student was hit by a truck”.

So, we watch people’s carefree, oblivious interactions, and other moments that come brimming with care, before we are suddenly taken to the aftermath of a tragedy: a cleaner tidying a silent hotel room, or some washing flapping in the breeze on an empty terrace. The deaths themselves thankfully all take place off-screen.

These are primarily tragedies of the young, but we observe how one person’s unexpected demise can be another person’s lifeline: such as the woman with a failing heart, whose life is dependent on the donation of a healthy organ after someone else’s fatal accident or sudden death. In another scene, a delighted young woman gets her big break after the shocking death of a rival performer. We also encounter the ironies of those who feel they have had too much of life, but whose bodies propel them seemingly endlessly on. One man, interviewed at 102, says he is more than ready to die, before we cut forward to his muted 104th birthday celebrations.

Interspersed with these vignettes are death-related facts and statistics – did you know there are 120 deaths a minute worldwide? There are also segments featuring mortality-orientated interviews with both the very young and the very old. Thus a young child is asked, “what do you think about the notion that human suffering and death are inevitable?“. Although a surprisingly mature and well-reasoned answer comes back in reply, I found such exchanges uncomfortable.

Overall I found the piece heavy-handed, mawkish and somehow adolescent, and I could have done without it in the midst of a massive pandemic.

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