J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

NYAFF ’16: Heart Attack

The only benefit Assanai “Yoon” Srisiri gets through his freelance design work is more work (but he’ll take it). Fortunately, the public hospital is reasonably affordable and the dermatology resident is pretty cute. Of course, you can’t put the moves on your doctor, especially if you’re not following her advice. Eventually, Srisiri will have to make some life decisions, such as whether he wants to have one in Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s Heart Attack (a.k.a. Freelance, trailer here), which screens during the 2016 New York Asian Film Festival.

Srisiri is on his fourth straight day without sleep—or is it his fifth? He is the Jedi Master of Thai freelance design, abetted by his agent, Je, who is also largely his only human contact. At least his buddy Kai often works the graveyard shift at 7-11, so they also see each other quite regularly. Not surprisingly, this lifestyle takes a toll on Srisiri’s health. Frankly, he is probably lucky it is only the rashes breaking out over his body, at least thus far.

Dr. Imm prescribes sleep, exercise, and a healthier diet, but Srisiri is reluctant to comply, fearing any slowdown in his productivity will cost him his hard-earned reputation. Yet, he also wants to show improvement for Dr. Imm, whom he has developed a confused patient crush. Naturally, his health and romantic issues come to a head just when his freelance career reaches a crossroads, because that really is how things happen in real life.

First of all, it should be noted Thai 7-11 food looks shockingly delicious, particularly the shrimp dumplings on a stock. Beyond that, Heart Attack is an unusually subtle and mature rom-com. Frankly, it is neither particularly romantic or comedic, but Thamrongrattanarit maintains such a light touch, you can’t really classify it as anything else.

As befits the ambiguity of their relationships, Sunny Suwanmethanon’s Srisiri develops some wonderfully sensitive but difficult to define chemistry with both Davika Hoorne and Thai pop idol Violette Wautier as Dr. Imm and Je, respectively. Hoorne subtly hints at the messy emotions contained beneath her aloof professionalism, while the sardonic Wautier often acts a welcome corrective to Srisiri’s moody brooding. Frankly, they both might just upstage the Suwanmethanon’s neurotic Srisiri.

Heart Attack also probably rings a generational bell in Thailand and greater Southeast Asia, but it won’t have such resonance here. Instead of navel-gazing and voting for free stuff, Srisiri and Peng (the rival biting at his heels) work like dogs. Arguably, American Gen X’ers will better identify with it than Millennials. Yet, even if viewers cannot relate personally, the smart, charismatic performances are still immediately engaging. Highly recommended, Heart Attack (a.k.a. Freelance) screens tonight (7/3) at the Walter Reade, as part of this year’s NYAFF.

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