Hawaii International Film Festival

HONOLULU -- Romantic jealousy leads to vicious suspicion in "Ploy," Thai director Pen-ek Ratanaruang's follow-up to "Invisible Waves," as a couple attempt to come to terms with the remnants of their faltering relationship.

Factoring in critical support and Ratanaruang's Asian auteur cachet, this 2007 Cannes Directors' Fortnight selection should be assured a healthy fest run and with savvy marketing could see modest success in niche markets.

Wit (Pornwut Sarasin) and his wife Dang (Lalita Panyopas) return to Bangkok after seven years in the U.S. to attend a funeral, taking a hotel room to rest up after their red-eye flight. Wit goes down to the lobby bar to buy a pack of cigarettes, where he encounters Ploy (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk), a waif-like young woman waiting to meet her mother later that day at the hotel. Their casual conversation reveals they share the same hometown, prompting Wit to offer Ploy the use of his room to shower and relax.

Dang, trying to get some sleep, is none too happy to meet Wit's new friend. Although she acts polite to Ploy, Dang quietly tells Wit to get rid of the girl. Their tense conversation indicates that all is not well after Wit refuses to ask Ploy to leave. Later, when Dang tries to discuss their deteriorating relationship, Wit avoids divulging too much about his feelings, prompting her to accuse him of infidelity.

In a parallel story line, hotel bartender Nut (Ananda Everingham) engages housekeeping maid Tum (Phornthip Papanai) in a steamy erotic encounter, setting up a telling contrast to the aridity of Wit and Dang's marriage.

Dang clearly feels threatened by the possibility that Wit might be attracted to Ploy, prompting a violent dream about smothering the girl to death. Upset by her disturbing fantasies and argument with Wit, Dang retreats to the hotel lobby, leaving Wit and Ploy alone as she embarks on a questionable assignation of her own.

Ratanaruang's unhurried pace gradually ratchets up the tension in this charged scenario by obscuring his characters' motivations and manipulating the narrative with telling dream sequences that reveal their ulterior intentions. Chankit Chamnivikaipong returns as cinematographer, conjuring a twilit lighting design that evocatively infers the early morning time frame and the characters' sleep-deprived state, while Ratanaruang's carefully plotted camera moves and deliberate framing emphasize their isolation and disconnectedness.

Five Star Production Co. and Fortissimo Films in association with the Film Factory
Screenwriter-director: Pen-ek Ratanaruang
Producer: Rewat Vorarat
Executive producer: Charoen Iamphungporn
Cinematographer: Chankit Chamnivikaipong
Production designers: Saksiri Chantarangsri, Wittaya Chaimongkol
Music: Hualampong Riddim, Koichi Shimizu
Editor: Patamanadda Yukol
Dang: Lalita Panyopas
Wit: Pornwut Sarasin
Ploy: Apinya Sakuljaroensuk
Tum: Phornthip Papanai
Nut: Ananda Everingham
Running time --107 minutes
No MPAA rating