Aditya Assarat's Wonderful Town
opens with a prolonged shot of breaking waves, and the recent tsunami looms large, even though it's only mentioned once. Set in a small town in the south of Thailand, with ragged, lush mountains on one side and the ocean on the other, Wonderful Town
tells the halting love story between Ton (Supphasit Kansen), an architect who arrives from Bangkok to supervise the reconstruction of a beach resort, and Na (Anchalee Saisoontorn), the beautiful woman who works at her father's hotel.
Shot in stately compositions that frequently frame the human characters before two-dimensional patterns created from architectural details or rows of palm trees, Wonderful Town
moves at a languid pace. Ton likes to sing in the shower and Na dreams of waves, and their gentle, halting courtship is affecting. He helps her take the laundry off the clothesline and brings her oranges from Phuket. She accepts them without an outward emotion, but when he's left, she holds them close and smiles.
Once love finds our characters, the camera grows more animated as well, but the title of Wonderful Town is at least half-ironic. Early in the film, Ton strays from his construction site to investigate what's left of a neighboring house, emptied by the tsunami. He picks up a sodden comic book and swings a few coat hangers in the empty closet. His coworkers tell him the house is haunted, but of course that's only half the story: the entire town is haunted, and everybody here has a past they can't leave behind.
Wonderful Town won the top prize at the Rotterdam Film Festival and screens at the New Directors/New Films series. Kino will release the film later this year.