“I don’t paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own reality”- Frida Kahlo
This quote perfectly describes Phab’s state of mind throughout this series. His artworks mostly reflect his pain and despair, while outlining his tumultuous relationship with Maze that forms the crux of this adaptation. While most paintings are difficult to interpret, they always have a distinct portrayal of the intense relationship between an artist and his muse. In this case, Phab’s painting directly resonate his deep affections for Maze. While this show isn’t perfect in its execution, the storytelling is vibrant and realistic. Unlike most Thai BL adaptations that are focused on university settings, Paint With Love has a more mature structuring with a rather brilliant casting. You slowly fall in love with the character’s imperfections as the show unwraps their multiple facets; it could be our ever-bickering main lead couple, their nosy friends or the forever-in-denial second lead couple. Tae Darvid and Singto Prachaya breathed life into the respective roles; livening their depictions with a touch of stoic personalization. I’m certainly in awe of their chemistry, which is exemplary and unparalleled. I have got so much to talk about this show that I’m afraid today’s review might turn into an endless tirade. Bear with me as I take you on this joyride, while we discuss the intricacies of this drama!
What I Liked Best
Paint With Love is definitely one of my favorite Thai BL dramas. Let me recount the ways, this show managed to rouse my attention and kept me hooked with its excellent storytelling!
We start this journey with two superfluous characters, totally opposite in nature. While Singto Prachaya (Maze) plays a cunning, calculative boss hell-bent on retribution; Tae Darvid (Phab) portrays his lazy love interest. Maze carries a deep-seated resentment that makes him aloof and vain; Phab, in retrospect, is easygoing, has an artistic mind and demeanor but is solely lackluster. The disparity is unbelievable, but somehow they fit together like pieces of the same puzzle; meant to be together. It is rather a rustic voyage; as Phab has to fight Maze’s stubborn nature as well as his high-handed attitude. While Phab isn’t smart like Maze and gets easily tricked, he has an unending sense of patience. He is passionate about his artworks and has an aversion to Maze’s quick “money-making” tactics. Despite their irreconcilable differences, Phab and Maze grow closer overtime, when they get to know each other intimately.
Phab understands Maze’s hesitancy, his unspoken words and also allays his fears, whenever Maze grows nervous in Nueng’s presence. They have a tactile relationship where Phab slowly becomes his comfort zone and brings him out his shell. Maze lives by a strict code of conduct and his daily routine is almost tyrannical (it was actually hilarious watching Phab dance to his tunes), but Phab helps him loosen up and enjoy the simple things in life. He also endeavors to bridge the gap between Maze and Nueng (despite being incredibly jealous of their relationship). Despite his massive flaws, Phab never misjudges Maze nor questions his intentions. His loyalty and adoration are staggering; so much so that Phab ultimately breaks through Maze’s defenses. I have never seen a more compatible pair. While Phab teaches Maze to forgo his inhibitions, Maze helps Phab to be more self-aware and disciplined. It might seem like Maze is the one always leaning on Phab for emotional support. But Maze changes Phab’s life indescribably. Maze might not be soft-spoken; but he always has Phab’s best interests at heart. They complete each other in ways unknown and this tapestry is truly enviable!
The Artistically Evolved Painting
The striking beauty of this adaptation lies in the remarkable chemistry between Tae Dravid and Singto Prachaya. They make their character’s relationship so believable and realistic that you can’t help but cheer for them. Before I started with this show, I had my own apprehensions. Both Tae and Singto are a part of established BL fandom- Tae with his long time onscreen partner, Tee Jaruji and Singto with Krist Perawat. In such circumstances, it is difficult to break through the old mold and form an entirely new pairing. I was also unsure if Tae would be comfortable in handling the passionate kissing scenes that his character role encompasses. Frankly, Tae Dravid left me shocked with his daring interpretation. It’s refreshing to watch an actor step out of his comfort zone and try something new. Tae’s chemistry by Singto feels familiar; like they have known each other for ages. The BTS videos posted by the show’s online media betray their close camaraderie and it is absolutely heartwarming.
While Phab fell first, Maze fell harder. The romance hits you defiantly, because it seems implausible. While Maze tries his level best to shield himself against Phab’s earthly charms, it’s a failed endeavor. They have nothing in common, have different work ethics and their clashes are epic. But beneath his tough exterior, Maze is actually a softie seeking love and affection. Phab hears that pitiful call and that’s how they end up together. It could be the scene where they share their first kiss on the beach or the scenes where Maze invites Phab home to help babysit Alex (Nuna’s son). While Maze is ridiculously antisocial; Phab is a happy-go-lucky guy. Maze seeks fortunes and a comfortable lifestyle; Phab hopes for a peaceful life with his pet chickens and cockroaches. There cannot be two dissimilar individuals as them, and yet these variances bind them together. While Phab’s care and affection help Maze to enjoy some quiet moments of solace; Maze endeavors to turn Phab into a successful man. He sees Phab wasting his talents and even though it hurts him, Maze wants the best for Phab. They don’t necessarily understand each other and have major communication problems; but at the end of this journey, Maze & Phob finally reunite. That’s the beauty of this script; it portrays their relationship in a realistic manner. We have two flawed individuals, in love with each other and yet they are hesitant to voice their opinions.
You don’t understand the true meaning of love; until you have lost your loved one
Decades may pass and still your heart will beat for no one else!!
Maze and Phab live this dream, survive the downfall and reconcile in an alluring manner, resplendent of fairy tale romances!
What I didn’t Like Much
Grudgingly, although I did enjoy this series a lot, there were a few instances where the script grated on my nerves.
The Unwanted Love Quandrangle
I’m not sure how Nueng (Yoon Phusanu) and Maze’s relationship play out in the novel; but it is a total mess in the live-action series. For one-quarter, we are misled with the misconception that Maze might have feelings for Nueng. The show keeps playing with our emotions as Maze keeps swaying back and forth. He is rather disturbed by Nueng’s presence, but at the same time; he seems unusually interested in Nueng’s personal and professional affairs. So, when the show throws the sudden gauntlet and reveals their stepbrother status; it is almost unbelievable. Rather than focusing on the two couples separately, the script gets them entangled in an awkward quandrangle. Phab and Than (Yacht Patsit) mistakenly assume that Nueng and Maze have affections beyond their stepbrother status. While Maze doesn’t entirely approve of Phab’s possessive nature (which drives a wedge between them); Nueng plays psychological games with Phab to antagonize him. I can’t rationalize Nueng’s behavior and it seems unlikely that he had Maze’s best interests at heart. Frankly, Nueng’s behavior is quite callous and I spend a lot of time berating him for humiliating Maze (whatever reasons he may have).
The Romance That Went Nowhere
Yoon Phusanu is one of those few BL actors who has a refreshing chemistry with each of his co-stars. The guy could stare at a stone and we had probably shipped them together. Unfortunately, his chemistry with Yacht falls flat and it is kind of disappointing. While Yoon does his best to charm the audiences with his impeccable aura (that makes his character relatable), Yacht has difficulty embracing his role as a BL actor. This could be, because this is his first major outing as a BL actor, but Yacht seems hugely uncomfortable. Their chemistry strikes odd, and I had a hard time believing their relationship. While Nueng spends three quarters of the series playing mind games with Phab and disrupting his relationship with Maze; Than is left alone to obsess over his feelings for Nueng. Again, a couple with major communication issues. Although Nueng does seem to sense Than’s feelings and his hesitation, he does absolutely nothing to address those issues. Then in the finale, we get a rushed confession and they suddenly start dating publicly. Honestly, I was expecting a better storyline for these two and I’m tad disheartened that their romance was so lackluster.
The Manager’s Disaster Trope
One of the major issues addressed in this show is the malpractices conjured by the managers of the BL actors. While we can’t always fault most managers (there are few who genuinely care about their clients), the majority of this fraternity is always on the radar for their mismanagement. Phueak (Gun Korawit) and Pookky (Sprite Patteerat) play the bright and dark of the same coin. While Phueak is a dedicated manager who cares about his client, Nueng; Pookky is abusive, untrustworthy and often manipulates her clients. While Pookky’s actions are certainly unforgivable, I had a major issue with the scene where Phueak loses his calm and assaults Pookky. Of course, Pookky’s actions are regrettable, but advocating violence doesn’t seem like a feasible option. The fact that Nueng and Than just by and watch was even more disturbing. The script was right in pointing out the redressal, but the execution was uncalled for. Pookky totally deserved the punishment that was meted out in the penultimate episode; I just wished that Pheuak had acted more rationally and kept his temper under control.
If “Boss & Employee” romance is your favorite trope, then Paint With Love should be your obvious choice. There are times when Maze and Phab’s catfights will drive you nuts; you might have a massive urge to shake them up and drive some sense into their heads. But they slowly grow on you and as their relationship blossoms, the love story will leave you mesmerized. I wasn’t expecting such a vivid connection between the two actors; but Tae Dravid and Singto Prachaya embody the fine nuances of their characters. If you are used to seeing Tae’s polished act as a member of the popular pop band SBFive, his appearance and overall demeanor in Paint With Love will leave you shell-shocked. Tae effortlessly assumes the alternate identity, and his act is flawless. If you are an ardent fan of Singto Prachaya, then this show is just an added feather to his already versatile BL repertoire. There are some glitches in the script, but those are few and far between. In retrospect, Paint With Love is definitely one of the best written Thai BL adaptations to premiere in 2021. I’m really besotted with Tae and Singto’s chemistry; here’s hoping that they star together in another BL drama (because this pairing definitely has a huge potential). Fingers crossed!
Rating- 4 out of 5
☆ Tae Dravid and Singto Prachaya were recently featured in Sudsapda magazine. They look fantastic together!