In the wreckage of the tsunami, director Aditya Assarat focuses his attention on the breeze in a clothesline and patterns on the surf. Set in present-day coastal Thailand, Wonderful Town's quiet, pensive tone reflects the stunned but stalwart sense of the community that remains, trying to rebuild itself. Bangkok architect Ton (Supphasit Kansen) volunteers to oversee a reconstruction project in a small coastal town, where he meets Na (Anchalee Saisoontorn), whose family owns a modest hotel. Their relationship develops in time with the rest of the film: slowly, softly, set to a background of strumming chords and trickling water.
The plot hinges on Ton and Na's need to be secretive about their relationship and the surrounding community's disapproval of it, but it's never explained why this is so. An audience unfamiliar with the social, cultural, religious, and/or ethnic structures of southern Thailand that might necessitate this kind of caginess just has to accept the situation and move on. Or perhaps it's something to do with either of the characters--something in their pasts...the reason is never made clear. The simple beauty of the film distracts from this gaping hole in the plot, but the questions nags: why are such drastic measures being taken to keep the relationship quiet, and to keep Ton and Na apart? The film is aesthetically captivating and both Kansen and Saisoontorn give impressively subtle, naturalistic performances, but one can't help feeling that a large part of Wonderful Town has been lost in translation.
Opens July 18 at Anthology Film Archives.