or not Voltaire really wrote “lotteries are a tax on stupidity,” he would
probably enjoy having the sentiment attributed to him. Nok is the exception.
When she plays, she wins every time, because she has inside information from
beyond. However, it is unclear if those winning numbers were really meant for
her in Mattie Do’s Dearest Sister (trailer here), which now
streams exclusively on Shudder.
has come to Vientiane to serve as an all-purpose care-giver for her distant
cousin, Ana. Immediately, she understands she is stuck in a precarious position.
She is not family enough to be considered equals with Ana and her Estonian
expat husband Jakob, yet she is not to lower herself by consorting with their
resentful maid and her husband, the surly gardener. Ana is slowly losing her
vision and she often sees recently departed ghosts with what sight remains. She
is also prone to psychic seizures, during which she repeats winning lottery
numbers passed along to her by the spirits. When she comes to Ana never
remembers anything she might have said, but Nok will.
keeping the source of her windfalls secret, Nok starts to bond with Ana through
her natural peasant’s affinity for the supernatural. Unfortunately, when Nok
gets a taste for big city high-living, it will quickly lead to her disgrace. Of
course, no matter how bad things look for her, they can always be fixed with a
new set of numbers.
the first Laotian woman to helm a feature film, the American born Do is
absolutely a trailblazer. Happily, she has massive filmmaking talent to go
along with her notoriety. Even though Shudder acquired Dearest, it is definitely a slow burner rather than a fright fest.
Yet, it never, ever drags. Do is clearly an actor’s director, eliciting some
subtle but intense performances from her ensemble, but she also controls the
mood and atmosphere like an old master.
Phommapunya totally burns up the screens as the quietly covetous Nok. Yet,
Vilouna Phetmany might even outshine her as the entitled but increasingly
terrified Ana. She also has a believably rocky rapport with Estonian Tambet
Tuisk, who defies all stereotypes and expectations by giving such human dimensions
to the ethically-challenged expat.
Frankly, Laos could use more filmmakers of
either sex and more freedom of expression in general. It is a one-party Marxist
state, albeit one apparently plagued by tremendous class inequities.
Regardless, Dearest is the sort of moody
and sophisticated supernatural drama that is always welcomed by genre fans
around the world. Very highly recommended, Dearest
Sister is now streaming on Shudder.
Labels: Horror Movies, Laotian Cinema, Mattie Do