In the 2014 Thai film 1448 Love Among Us, both the “1448” and the “Us” of the title are significant, the former the section of the Thai penal code restricting marriage to heterosexual people and the latter an indicator that this film is very much a movie for domestic consumption. Even so, for drama lovers there’s enough in here to slake the thirst, while issue-seekers are more obviously catered for.
The opening shot sets the tone – two pretty young women in bridal white getting married to each other, in a ceremony presided over by an official who has her reservations but who wishes Pim (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk) and Pat (Isabella Lete) well, as do the assembled guests, though two prominently empty seats at the front of the suggest that not everyone is happy.
From here the story goes back and forwards in time. Back to the relationship Pim was in with the controlling and boorish boyfriend Nam (Pudit Kunchanasongkarm) before she met pretty photographer Pat at one of those partytime beach resorts people go to Thailand for (and the locals visit too, it seems). It goes slightly less far back, to the business venture Pim and Pat decide to set up together once they’ve become an item, a hipster cafe/bar where it becomes clear that bare brick walls, upcycled furniture and barista voodoo have taken over the whole world. And then into the future, where the ramifications of the restrictive section 1448 become tragically clear.
There’s a striking – you’d say jarring, if it wasn’t deliberate – contrast of form and content in this film. Visually it’s as bright and clear as the flawless skin of Pim and Pat, and at different times director Arunsak Ongla-or gives us shots that wouldn’t be out of place in a promo for a beach resort, or a movie girding its loins for an upcoming soft porn sequence. For the avoidance of doubt, in spite of the lesbian theme, Mr Skin won’t be plundering this film for gifs (no nudity, in other words).
A more zippily edited, slightly raunchier feature-length episode of an Australian soap, like Home and Away or Neighbours, I thought, … until things went dark. It behaves like an Aussie soap too – there are slo-mo sequences and flash-dissolves, music intrudes like an erratically noisy neightbour, the (solidly believeable) actors wear fetching outfits designed to emphasise hotness rather than character, people unload emotionally on whoever happens to be nearest to them and there’s an underlying philosophy that being who we really are is the most important thing in life, wanting something the key ingredient in making it happen. All is bright, and sunny and as optimistic as a beach bar.
Then Pim has a miscarriage at college, and as the blood runs down her leg and into her sneakers, the whole bright and soapy ambience is revealed as ironic. Darker developments beckon, none of which I’ll give away except to say that the wedding we saw clearly had no basis in law.
There have been hints that all is not going to end well. Pim’s parents have been fine about her sudden declaration that she’s a lesbian who has found the love of her life, but Pat’s are more “do not darken our door”. And if a late development and revelation come a bit hastily, they’re of a piece with the love story itself, which went from a standstill to all-out declarations and physical consummation (again: no nudity) in no time.
It’s a heartfelt film and a campaigning film, and, no, those are not synonyms for “bad”. But 1448 Love Among Us is targeted at a specific audience. If you’re young, Thai and involved in the struggle to get the law changed so people can elect who they want to marry, with all the legal rights that go with that, then this is most definitely for you. I’m none of those things and yet enjoyed it a whole lot more than I expected.
© Steve Morrissey 2021