'One Day': Film Review | Hawaii International Film Festival 2016

Hawaii Int’l Film Festival - ONE DAY- H 2016
Courtesy of Hawaii Int’l Film Festival
Better luck another day.

Thai filmmaker Banjong Pisanthanakun returns to romantic comedy with his Japan-set new film.

Although more typically associated with horror material, writer-director Banjong Pisanthanakun attempts to extend a highly successful run of recent releases that includes horror-comedy Pee Mak, Thailand’s domestic box-office record-holder, by switching things up with romantic comedy One Day. Hobbled by a disappointing dependence on transparent plot contrivances and conventional romantic sentiments, the film proves rather less inventive than Pisanthanakun’s more distinctive work. After a decent domestic opening in September, the film looks most likely to gain overseas exposure on the international festival circuit.

Exploiting the now nearly universal stereotype of the misunderstood computer geek, Pisanthanakun centers the action on Den (Chantavit Dhanasevi), who works mostly unrecognized and underappreciated in the IT department of a mid-sized Bangkok food-products company. Although he relates better to computers than he does to most people, one of the few exceptions is Nui (Nittha Jirayungyurn), a cute girl in the marketing department. Her frequent computer mishaps provide Den with the opportunity to visit her desk and troubleshoot a series of fairly innocuous technical issues. Always appreciative, Nui remains reserved, since she’s secretly dating the very married company boss Top (Theerapat Sajakul) and doesn’t want to attract attention.

At the company New Year’s party, Den musters the courage to speak with Nui, but his halting expressions of admiration only earn him a brusque brush-off, so he resorts to more clandestine tactics, using his technical skills to try and make her workday more enjoyable. Then on a company-wide ski trip to Sapporo, Den gets a chance to approach Nui again after she has a fight with Top when his wife and son unexpectedly show up to join the group. Nui remains behind feeling desperate and depressed once Top departs with his family and her other co-workers, except for Den, who secretly stays on as well.

After a half-hearted suicide attempt that involves skiing down a steep slope in a snowstorm sends her to the hospital with a head injury, Nui regains consciousness to find Den at her bedside. She doesn’t recognize him, or remember anything from the past several years, due to a case of transient global amnesia, a temporary memory-loss condition. So when she mistakenly concludes that Den must be her boyfriend, he says nothing to dissuade her, well aware that she’s expected to regain her memory within a day and will inevitably recall that he's her nerdy co-worker. With only 24 hours to prove his affection, Den plans a whirlwind tour of Hokkaido’s winter attractions, determined to show Nui the time of her life, since he’s convinced he’ll never get another chance to be her boyfriend.

One Day bears some similarities to Hello Stranger, Pisanthanakun’s only other romantic comedy, which features another mismatched couple embarking on a whimsical overseas road trip (not to mention a clear resemblance to the central conceit of 2004’s 50 First Dates). Along with co-writers Dhanasevi and Nontra Khumvong, Pisanthanakun takes such care establishing Den’s awkward outsider status that the character’s fascination with Nui eventually takes on obsessive proportions. Exhibiting the extent of Den’s creepy behavior as he follows Nui’s daily routine, intensely observes her relationship with Top and hacks into her work computer, the filmmakers hope to establish that his approach is both comedic and endearing, but he comes off as distinctly stalker-ish.

Dhanasevi (who also co-wrote and co-starred in Hello Stranger) imbues Den with a similarly meticulous characterization, but operates in such a narrow comedic range that the performance becomes predictably repetitive. In her feature debut, popular TV actress Jirayungyurn demonstrates considerably more range conveying Nui’s confusion over her memory loss and her persistently suspicious appraisal of Den’s amorous assertions.

Well out of their tropical element, Pisanthanakun and his talented crew adeptly adapt to Hokkaido’s snowy weather, confidently delivering an attractively packaged production.

Venue: Hawaii International Film Festival
Production companies: GDH Gross Domestic Happiness, JDR Kwang Films
Director: Banjong Pisanthanakun
Screenwriters: Chantavit Dhanasevi, Nontra Khumvong, Banjong Pisanthanakun
Producers: Jira Maligool, Vanridee Pongsittisak, Chenchonnee Soonthornsaratul, Suwimon Techasupinan, Weerachai Yaikwawong
Director of photography: Naruphol Chokanapitak
Editor: Chonlasit Upanigkit

Not rated, 135 minutes