Review: Malila: The Farewell Flower

Written and directed by Anucha Boonyawatana, co-written by Wasuthep Ketpetch, former lovers Shane and Pich reunite and try to heal the wounds of their past. Shane is haunted by the tragic death of his daughter, while Pich suffers a grave illness. Starring: Sukollawat Kanarot, Anuchit Sapanpong, Sumret Muengput, Akekarad Khalong, Prakasit Horwannapakorn, Punthip Teekul, Bodin Moomeensri and Veeravat Jamrensan.

There’s an immediate atmospheric style to Malila: The Farewell Flower, it holds a strongly pensive and poignant air. It feels dense with loss and sadness, their struggle is palpable and sets the scene for a journey of reflection and acceptance. As it moves forward and mingles with the romance between Shane (Sukollawat Kanarot) and Pich (Anuchit Sapanpong), it adds different layers to that atmosphere, there’s a passion but it’s framed in a delicately melancholy manner.

The cinematography is affecting, it has a great use of colour, particularly from a dark, natural palette. However, it makes some bold choices of a graphic nature towards its end which feel unjustified and don’t meld with the tone it built so far. They do hold a certain artistic temperament and don’t feel intended purely to shock but it does stray far from what it’s built up until then.

As a whole, the story plays out like a tragedy, there’s never any feeling of hope, only to explore their losses and struggle. It delves into a harsh example of life’s hardships and doesn’t sugar coat their experiences. It moves in a thoughtfully slow way, letting the emotions and questions of its scenes have plenty of time to land. It may be a touch too slow for some, but it does match the style it’s going for and while there are a couple of scenes that overly make their point, it never becomes sluggish.

Sukollawat Kanarot and Anuchit Sapanpong bring two very different characters to the table, but two that not only have a strong connection and chemistry but perfectly relate to each other’s struggle. There’s a wholesome, caring love between them, it is also romantic but there’s a larger generosity and compassion at work. The sadness and melancholy that they both bring is not the type to make viewers cry but to strike deeper. It’s not a typical heartbreak but one which is harrowing.

Malila: The Farewell Flower is a potent story of loss and hardship. Anucha Boonyawatana’s writing and direction create a powerful atmosphere which is consistent throughout, full of a deep sadness. It takes a few risks with the visual down the line but it’s shot extremely well and the cinematography captures the richness of its natural locations. Kanarot and Sapanpong bring an impressive depth to their characters and a memorable connection.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

Reviewed as part of Queer East Film Festival 2022

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