Festival gem: I Carried You Home

Two sisters go on a journey to their dead mother’s birthplace in this unconventional road movie, part of a strong showing for Thai cinema at this year’s Festival.

Alex Davidson

This year’s BFI London Film Festival has boasted an excellent line-up of Thai cinema, notably Vorakorn Ruetaivanichkul’s Mother, which screened alongside the latest film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Mekong Hotel. All the Thai features in this year’s programme have a focus on familial relationships – Tongpong Chantarangkul’s I Carried You Home is an unusual road movie feature focusing on two sisters who have to rebuild their relationship under tragic circumstances.

What’s it about?

Two estranged sisters, Pann (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk) and Pinn (Akhamsiri Suwanasuk) reunite following the sudden death of their larger-than-life mother, who collapsed mid-song while singing karaoke. Despite never having got on well, the siblings travel with the body back to the dead woman’s birthplace in Padang Besar (the film’s Thai title), driven by a friendly if unreliable chauffeur. After initial frostiness, the women try forge a rapprochement.

Who made it?

Tongpong Chantarangkul makes his feature debut with I Carried You Home. After working at post-production company Soho Asia and graduating with an MA in filmmaking from London Film School, he submitted his degree film, Wings of Blue Angels, to the 2008 Edinburgh International Film Festival, where it won the Trailblazing Award.

What’s special about it?

I Carried You Home stands out among the Thai selection for this year’s Festival for its inventive blend of comedy and tragedy – the ostentatious behaviour of the mother, seen in flashback, and the flakiness of the driver effectively counteract the study of familial bonding through grief. Sakuljaroensuk, a familiar face to Thai audiences through her acting work and appearances in music videos, gives an excellent performance as the often selfish Pann. The scene where Pinn reveals why she ran away from an arranged marriage, which would have been sensationalised in a lesser film, is beautifully understated, as is the poignant last shot.

What the critics are saying

Stefano Locati, Asia Express (translation):

Chantarangkul shows great inventiveness from the opening scene, set inside a reversing ambulance to collect the body of the dead woman. He proceeds with understated shots … disarming the viewer with the melancholic and nostalgic mood of the piece. The trip assumes the state of a ritual, and even if some scenes are over-dramatised, it lingers in the memory for its effective representation of catharsis.

Tony Rayns, BFI London Film Festival advisor:

First-time director Tongpong, a London Film School graduate, knows the secret links between motion and emotion. His unorthodox road movie gets everything right: the nuanced performances, the visuals, the audio. An exceptional debut.

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