Review: ‘Homestay’ is a sweet reminder of why we should be thankful for life

Marcus Goh
·Contributor
PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures
PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

If you’re the philosophical type, you can see how Homestay‘s title is a metaphorical observation about the ephemeral nature of life. Yet, despite the slightly fatalistic connotations that the title connotes, Homestay is actually a heartwarming and feel-good film that manages to weave thrills, mystery, and the supernatural into a film about family and the joy of life itself. The Thai film revolves around a wandering spirit who comes back to life in the body of a teenage boy who has recently committed suicide. But in order to stay alive longer, the wandering spirit must discover why the teenager committed suicide within 100 days — or he will die and never be reincarnated.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures
PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

Homestay starts slow, even though it does try to elicit the audience’s curiosity with some dramatic moments. Tonally, it feels very much like a mystery thriller at first, with very little information about the protagonist’s circumstances provided. It echoes the confusion of the main character himself, as we discover more about the life of the teenage boy, Min (Teeradon ‘James’ Supapunpinyo) alongside the spirit who now inhabits the body. It’s a bit of stretch that nobody suspects anything is amiss, since “Min” seems to lack incredibly critical pieces of knowledge. And in this digital age of passwords, it’s also amazing how the spirit managed to resume Min’s life (and presumably, all the social media accounts that a teenager would have), since it seems like very few digital devices have password protection in the world of Homestay.

Despite his initially bland performance, Supapunpinyo grows into his role and is a surprisingly endearing character. Even though Min’s family and friends are effectively strangers to him, the main character still manages to develop relationships and connections with them. This grows the emotional stakes and the like-ability of the protagonist, and it’s something that slowly sneaks up on you. The feel-good factor of the show hinges greatly on Supapunpinyo’s ability to make us root for the hero, and he does just that in the film.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures
PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

There are definitely shades of A Wonderful Life in the film, in terms of the feel-good factor. And like that classic, Homestay also reminds us of the beauty and wonder of life, despite its many imperfections. The message may take a while to show itself, but the themes eventually run their due course and leave us with pleasant vibes as the film finishes.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures
PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

The romance between Min and Pi (Cherprang Areekul) is sweet and pure, as teenage romances should be. Of course, there’s the inevitable taint that they must overcome later in the film (not what you may be thinking), but it’s a very charming portrayal of what young love can be like. There’s a great deal of chemistry between both leads, with genuine smiles and subtle body language that shows their affection on screen.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures
PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

You may be surprised to discover that Homestay is actually a Thai adaptation of a Japanese movie and novel, Colorful. It manages to localise the story to a Thai context so well that you never quite have the feeling that it’s a story that was adapted from another culture. Unlike some other cross-cultural adaptations, such as Kill Mobile or 50 First Kisses, Homestay manages to come across as an authentic Thai story, one that could believably happen in Thailand.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures
PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

There’s also an impressive twist in the tale that brings the whole story full circle. While it may seem like a frivolous, even meaningless quest to find out the reason why Min killed himself, the big reveal adds greater meaning to the whole movie and causes you to revisit the main character’s actions and their overall significance. It’s this twist that lends Homestay its It’s A Wonderful Life vibe, and similarly its feel-good ending as well.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures
PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

Homestay is a little long, however, running at over two hours long. It’s not that it’s draggy though, but there are some scenes that feel like they could have been trimmed and yet not lose their emotional weight. Nevertheless, the running time is something to consider, as it’s rather long for its genre.

In addition, there’s something to be said about its portrayal of suicide victim Min. From the film, it’s obvious that Min is struggling with some sort of mental illness, possibly depression. Yet this is conveniently ignored by the plot, when it should be a more integral part of the story. In this day and age, the level of mental health awareness should have been much higher in the film, and that aspect should have been addressed a lot more than it currently is.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures
PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

Homestay is a wonderful feel-good movie, with only a few rough edges that don’t really take away from its message. If you’re looking for a film to soothe a downer of a day (or week), then Homestay is exactly what the doctor ordered. Its sincere message about being grateful for life is enough to rekindle the love for life in almost any viewer.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? If you like Thai films.

Score: 3.5/5

Secret ending? No.

Running time: 131 minutes (~2.25 hours)

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures
PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

Homestay is a Thai supernatural drama-thriller that’s based on the Japanese novel and film, Colorful.

The film follows the adventures of a wandering spirit who has been given a 100-day “homestay” in the body of a teenager who has recently committed suicide. He must find out why the teenager killed himself or risk never being reincarnated again. However, there’s more than meets the eye to this teenager, and the wandering spirit must discover what it is that truly drives the teenager.

Homestay is directed and written by Parkpoom Wongpoom, with additional writing credits for Thodsapon Thiptinnakorn, Jirassaya Wongsutin, Abhichoke Candrasen, and Eakasit Thairaat. It stars Teeradon “James” Supapunpinyo (Min), Cherpang Areekul (Pi), Suquan Bulakul (Min’s mother), Roj Kwantham (Min’s father), Natthasit Kotimanuswanich (Menn), Saruda Kiatwarawut (Li), Nopachai Chainam (the cleaner form of the Guardian), Chermarn Boonyasak (the nurse form of the Guardian), and Thaneth Warakulnukroh (the psychiatrist form of the Guardian). It is rated PG-13 for some sexual references.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures
PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

Homestay opens in cinemas:
– 24 January, 2019 (Singapore)
– 20 March, 2019 (Philippines)

Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter, having written for popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Crimewatch”, “Code of Law”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

Follow Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore on Facebook.