When in Rome, do as the Romans do. So when in Thailand, what else but to watch a Thai film? While I'm in Bangkok to attend the gala screening of Wisit Sasanatieng's The Red Eagle, I thought it was quite uncanny for leading man Ananda Everingham to have another film already in the cinemas, so why not check that out first before we see him donning the mask of Thailand's avenger? Also a period piece and a remake of an old film, based on a renowned Thai folklore, Eternity bears the hallmarks that are quintessential to any romantic melodrama, with lush sets and cinematography forming the background on which a couple falls in love in.
But it's not that simple, nor a happily ever after. It takes the concept of Eternity very literally, or at least one of the main characters do in etching out his punishment, and the love story here is fairly complicated, where rich land owner Pabo, an influential elderly man, takes the young woman Yupadee (Laila Boonyasak) he met at a glitzy high society function as his latest bride, bringing the uptown girl back to his sprawling rural kingdom only for his favourite nephew Sangmong (Ananda Everingham) and probable heir to his business to fall for her, and vice versa. After all, she's probably in it for the money, but in terms of looks, physique, personality and the issues on which to emotionally click, Sangmong is it.
Blame it on Pabo himself though, who provides ample opportunity for his bride and nephew to gallivant together through his estate, as well as suggesting that Sangmong should love his aunt as well as he loved him the uncle. Sangmong takes those words in the literal sense, allowing himself to get romantically involved with Yupadee, and his character, for all his education and learned demeanour, does come across as quite the coward when we eventually dwell deeper, always preferring to push the fault and blame onto another, just as he warned Yupadee that it will be her fault if they get caught in their illicit relations, and retorting back to Pabo that he's not to be blamed for misunderstanding his uncle's words. Sneaky fella, this chap.
Narrated by the trusted manservant of Pabo who presents things as they are from a third person perspective, the second half is when director M.L. Punddevanop Dhewakul's film become more interesting, once it got past the honeymoon period, and into what it means by Eternity in a relationship... that of suffering if a couple came together under such amorous circumstances. Peeled away are all the romanticism, with reality settling in fast, revealing the incompatibility, and the forced circumstances where they have to face each other 24x7. Ask any couple if they can do that, and the answer will probably be a resounding no, unless they want to torpedo their relationship.
It's an innovative punishment metted out by Pabo against his wife and nephew, who think of him as the fool for such a childish act of chaining them both together (as any keen eyed observer would have spotted on one of the movie posters), and for others, thinking that he is Benevolence personified in allowing the adulterous couple to live, but it's quite a cunningly deceptive move, in making the couple punish each other instead. If wedding vows are for better or for worst, it couldn't be more litmus a test when two persons have to undergo something similar, and we witness how a relationship irrevocably deteriorates as the film plods its way to the finale.
You'll get two stories for the price of one, and Ananda Everingham fans will likely lap this up as the film shoots him in dreamy lens and sets up some steep romanticism amongst the lush greenery in rural Thailand, before developing into its brilliant second act that is something rather stark and void of romanticism when the thrill of an illicit relationship settles. I suppose that's how most relationships initiate, and then die off when there's either a lack of effort to maintain it, or if you have to face a nagging partner, isn't it?