I believe this is the first BL series from Laos and it is definitely off to a good start. It is a familiar story though undoubtedly copied from its neighboring country, Thailand.
It is a story of a school gang called One Love which is lead by Neung. There are four others in this group – Mek, James, Jon and the adorable tomboy Meow. Mek has an unrequited love for Meow and in essence this is really their story. What starts out as a friendship, ends up becoming a budding romance between the two of them; although they go through a lot of angst to get there, more so on Mek’s part. Meow has never thought of him romantically, until he finally confesses his love for her. I usually find these ‘straight’ stories to be quite contrived in BL series. But I found that their romance seemed to work here, as it developed consequentially. Their timing, connection, and chemistry together is real and seemed natural. And I liked their relationship. However, I think they were trying to make the series a bit more palatable, as the ‘real’ story is focused on the gay couple.
The relationship between Neung and Demo is a slow paced but predictable journey. Neung being a gang leader in school is threatened by his father that if his behavior and grades do not improve, he will be shipped to America for studies. (Hmm, I never thought that being shipped to the USA can be a ‘punishment’, but I guess it is as a lot of these series want to send them here. I am not sure what we can do to improve his behavior, though). So, Neung hires Demo to tutor him. He kind of forces him to do it by stalking him and finding out that his father owes a huge amount of money to a loan shark. Demo can pay that off if he tutors him. What choice does Demo have? Although he is not yet fully cognizant of his inner feelings, he finds Neung attractive and really does want to be with him (despite his protests).
Demo is a quiet, withdrawn, studious, and a very sensitive individual who abhors bullying, as he himself was bullied as a child. In an unique and beautiful way, Neung has been connected to him since he was a child; as he was the one who rescued Demo from the bullies torturing him when he was young. Demo never forgot that person, who coincidentally turns out now to be Neung. When reminded, Neung remembers the incident and to this day, he has kept the broken bracelet that Demo gave him as a remembrance gift. I found that whole scenario such an enhancement to the story and a very nice tie-in to make their romance complete. Their connection has been established at a very early age and each of them has maintained a nexus to that bond. There are also some nice budding romances with other members in the gang as well that just tease of relationships.
This story is surprisingly entertaining, even if the premise has been done a million times. We have Demo’s repentant Mother who tries to connect with him, even though she abandoned him a long time ago (always for good reasons though). Neung’s family is controlled by a dominant father who while being stern really does love his son. His family is obviously wealthy. The other cohorts in the gang are quite colorful and move the story along. The bantering between them seems genuinely real and kind of fun. Of course, there is a big fight scene at the end with both sides, fostered by Neung, to call a truce and work things out without fists. Ironically, Top, the head of the rival gang, turns out to be Demo’s stepbrother. I know that sounds a bit corny and contrived, but it worked for me in this case. Perhaps because of the pretty good acting displayed by the actors.
This had to be a real delicate balance for this production as (I believe) this is the first BL series from Laos. So, while the main focus, was on the ‘straight’ couple, it was really the gay relationships that had the most impact. Neung was attracted to Demo from the very beginning and there was no trying to deny that nor did any of the other gang members have an issue with him loving another male. Surprisingly, the only couple who kissed in this series was the gay couple, which was a refreshing twist. It was the straight couple who showed hesitancy, while the gay couple developed the romantic side to their connection. Indeed, quite a welcome change!
The casting was good and they all seemed quite natural in their roles. However, the individual who played Mek stood out. I do believe (and hope) that the individual who played Mek was Burdy Inthalangsy. Furthermore, I cannot say enough good things about him. I will first acknowledge that he is drop-dead gorgeous, with an innocence that would melt the hardest of hearts. His quiet demeanor and even-tempered approach to this role, made him absolutely endearing and a joy to watch. Honestly, when Meow couldn’t understand his love for him, I felt his pain and emptiness. He played his emotions with a sense of growth that was relatable. Burdy embodies Mek and I absolutely loved his portrayal. I couldn’t take my eyes off him, as he hooked me with his total commitment to Meow. His acting showed such a wide range of emotions, that you could feel and sense them. He made Meow his whole world and we became a part of this world with him. I am begging for forgiveness here as it is very difficult to find out who these actors are (in English, that is), so I do not want to make a mistake in identifying them incorrectly.
This mini-series is not earth-shattering, but it is entertaining and makes you feel good about life in general. It’s subliminal message against bullying is evident and makes its point. Although the gay relationships were NOT necessarily the main focus of this story, they were the true storytellers. Yes, we see the unrequited love story between Mek and Meow, but we also see in the forefront that gay relationships are ‘OK’. For that, they deserve praise for bringing a love story between two guys (bordering on two more male couples) to light and legitimizing these relationships as well.
I liked this series and will definitely encourage others to watch it.
Rating – 4/5