Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
The Stars: Chantavit Dhanasevi, Nuengtida Sopon, Chantawit Thanasewee
The Story: She’s a romantic obsessed with South Korean TV dramas. He’s a smarmy-mouthed young man saddled with emotional baggage of his own. A series of hilarious encounters and misunderstandings unite this unlikely duo during their respective vacations in Seoul. As the pair trade verbal-sparring tips and share delicate feelings, they realize love happens when you least expect it.
The Buzz: From production company GTH, the wheels behind 2009’s Thai box-office champ Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story, Hello Stranger was shot a good 80 percent on location in South Korea. The film is also horror director/writer Banjong Pisanthanakun’s (Phobia 2, Alone, Shutter) first foray into the romantic-comedy genre, and is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Thai people’s fascination with Korean culture.
inSing.com thinks: It’s Serendipity meets a watered-down version of An Affair to Remember in this modern Thai romantic caper about opposites attracting more than a fight. The plot is (deliberately) riddled with some of the cheesiest Korean soap opera clichés we love to hate. That means a fair dose of slapstick routines, over the top melodrama involving an overly possessive boyfriend and an ex who’s about to get hitched to someone else, cute costume changes and the perennial favourite dancing sequence at a Korean night club – only to the hottest boyband chart-topper of course.
The story that fuels Hello Stranger has been terribly tried and tested before, but its lead cast showers a candid vigour of chemistry that renders the film both heartwarming and entertaining. Newcomer Sopon, who could easily pass off as a young Korean hipster, is comfortable with her comic-timing and also manages to weep spectacularly like any self-respecting K-drama actress. Dhanasevi is golden playing his ne’er-do-well character, pervaded with enough vulnerability so we learn to empathize with him. The pair get themselves into a variety of cringe-worthy misdemeanors, and their banter constantly borders on the ridiculous. Though when taken in context, this is a story about two young people growing in love, Pisanthanakun’s script is humorously spot-on and convincingly captures the idiosyncrasies of adolescent romance. While the ending finds itself in grating cliffhanger territory, you can’t help but be completely endeared; because sometimes, less is really more.