An overlooked series that has both brilliance and occasional ineptness. Through its sporadic ups and downs, I was mesmerized by its message, that is both clear and muddy at the same time.
This is an honest examination of what outcomes would be possible; if one was granted a wish to go back in time to fix their unfinished business from the past or make different choices at a critical period. You may find that trying to change to a new course for the same old problems from your past may not give you the positive results that you were hoping for in the end. What will they do with the new path? In other words, can they change or alter their destinies?
This is an incredible journey of five people, seemingly random but still connected, who are given a chance to be 15 again; not in the past, but 15 in the present. Why and how these five people are given this opportunity to relive their lives again is unknown and remains mystical. The only common thread is that they all got their ID cards copied and by fate, use the same copy machine at a local store run by a quixotic older man, AND they are mysteriously linked to a song from their era when they were really 15. They are given the chance to be 15 again, with 40 years of life experiences as their guide. Hence, 55:15. You are given a ‘second chance’ to start a new life, fix a problem, change a trait, recapture what they had, create experiences that they did not have at that age originally, or somehow complete some unfinished business from their past. What will you do? The reasons are as unique and individualized as they are. However, they all do share common traits. Without exception, all are hapless, lost, unhappy, dissatisfied with life, lonely, bitter, and essentially chasing a reality that will never be. In other words, they are all failures, both real and perceived. The five who are given the opportunity to relive 15 again are as follows:
1. San, played by Nanon Korapat Kirdpan as younger and Jeep Wasu Saengsingkaeo as older. Because of an abusive father and a rather precocious individual, San runs away from home and subsequently leaves the girl he loves deeply behind in a note to her that says he will someday come back and take care of her. In reality, he ends up being a voice over actor and spends what money he makes on alcohol, women, and friends. His life is full of suffering.
2. Jaya, played by Piploy Kanyarat as younger and Nok Sinjai Plengpanich as older. Jaya is what we call a ‘one-hit wonder’ in music and spends the rest of her life trying to recapture that moment. In the meantime, she spirals down into obliviousness, brackishness, bitterness, and numbs herself with alcohol. If you understand the reference (which I know is obscure), she is Norma Desmond.
3. Paul played by Khaotung Thanawat Ratanakitpaisan as the younger and Kob Songsit Rungnopakunsi. Paul, with his family, operates a restaurant. He is devoted to his mother and this restaurant and has never had a significant person in his life. He is gay and leads a very closeted life. He has been sad his entire life, now more deeply feeling the effects of loneliness and isolation as he gets older.
4. Amonthep, played by Kay Lertsittichai as younger and Amarin Nitibhon as older. He had dreams of becoming a great boxer, but life happened along the way, and the dreams of glory are fading fast. He now is in danger of losing his treasured boxing academy that was left to him by his mentor and ‘father’. He is always dreaming but never quite reaches any apex.
5. Jarunee, played by View Benyapa Jeenprasom as younger and Kara Polisat as older. Jarunee is a bitter uptight school teacher who is a stern disciplinarian, unhappy, and has no sense of fun. She has no social life, having devoted her entire existence to be the ‘best’ teacher. Her back story is most intriguing as she has a young man, Bomb, played by Arm Weerayut Chansook, pursuing her. Although there is quite an age difference, he genuinely seems to love her. However, because she neglected herself, she is diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer, and her remedy is to attempt to take her own life, feeling as if she now has nothing to live for. She is always living in the shadows.
So, these are the 5 individuals whom fate has granted a new lease on life. Episodes are devoted to each of their back stories and crossovers with the others, both as their younger and older selves. Their individual stories are told with such a deep understanding of who they were and what they turned out to be. In essence, their selfhood never changes. The transitions from when they are young to when they are old are done seamlessly and flawlessly. That is the beauty of this story. We are privy to when they were young, old, and young again but living life through their ‘older eyes’.
Their stories are replete with richness and an understanding of how they got to be who they are. Each of their stories is painful and full of intense human drama. They lived life with all its struggles and now wonder where it went wrong and why. Perhaps that is why they were given a second chance to see themselves as 15 again. With each facing different final outcomes from their transition, will their lives finally be better, not change at all, or will they conclude anything from this new lease on life? For brevity’s sake, let me go in depth on just one story because it is closest to me and is relatable to my own life as a gay man. That is Paul. I could feel his pain, loneliness, and pangs of emptiness as he was aging.
Paul, undoubtedly, is the person with the least major flaws but unfortunately grew up in a time when gay relationships were only whispered about and viewed as ‘perversion’ (as it is described for being one of the reasons perhaps, that he needed to change his ways). Paul is a quiet, humble man who has an unrequited love for the piano player at his restaurant named Mathee (Yong Armchair). For nearly 20 years, he has languished over wanting to be with Matee but never had the courage to even approach him to tell him about his feelings. In the meantime, Mathee got married and had a son but eventually gets a divorce. The son, now grown to being a teenager, is a rather pensive, reflective, shy, and reserved teenager but very observant. Finally, after some encouragement from a friend, Paul works up enough nerve to confess his feelings to Mathee. But before he could do so, Mathee tells him he is getting remarried and would like him to be there at the wedding in the status of his favorite uncle. Paul is crushed and becomes profoundly pensive as his chance, albeit almost zero from the beginning, completely faded away.
But next morning Paul wakes up to find that he is 15 again. Ironically, the same age as Mathee’s son. Paul, to figure out what to do, goes back to school, where he finds others in his same predicament. Paul is assigned Mathee’s son. Pipu (Win Pawin), as his peer guide to help him adjust to the school. An interesting relationship begins to develop between Paul and Pipu. Pipu is well aware of Songpol’s (older Paul) crush on his father, which of course makes the younger Paul uncomfortable as he all along thought he has hidden his feelings for Mathee. Pipu becomes attracted to Paul; and Paul to Pipu. At one point, for an audition for possible roles in a BL series, they are asked to kiss. As long as he has known Mathee, Paul has wanted to kiss him, but now, here, he is kissing his son instead and developing stronger feelings for him. The irony of ironies. Yet, he knows that he is 55 in a body of a 15-year-old. It just feels ‘wrong’ but at the moment (of 15) it is right. In the end, Paul turns back to being 55 and not only must grapple with never being able to be with Mathee, but he must also say goodbye to his son Pipu forever. In a profoundly moving note, he leaves behind for his Uncle Songpol to give him, as ‘Paul’ must now return to where he came from. This whole scene was astonishingly moving and admittedly brought tears to my eyes. Songpol (Paul) must continue to lead a sad and lonely life, now having lost the two ardent loves in his life. In a cruel twist, the older Paul suffers the loss of having to let go of the father at the same time the younger Paul must leave behind the love for the son. The profundity of that experience seems almost absurd. Paul’s outcome, for me, is the saddest. Yes, he was able to find ‘love’ in different forms – one romantically as the teenager and one as the older person, filled with deep respect and honor as an esteemed family member. But he must learn to live life without intimacy. Living quietly with a better understanding of life and the hand that it dealt him.
There are no real happy endings for any of them. This series takes ordinary people and turns them back into another version of themselves as ordinary people.
1. San must take comfort that while he found his love again, it may never reach its fruition. He is able to complete his destiny of being with her but will never be able to because he remains 15. His story is of profound sadness and melancholy. Love is within his grasp, but remains elusive and therefore unreachable. His reconciliation with his dying father had me in tears and was a treasured moment in this series.
2. Jaya, undoubtedly the most successful, resurrected her singing career and did indeed heed her mistakes from the past. While her tenacity is admirable, some of her techniques to claw her way back are a bit immoderate and she still remains a rather frail and vulnerable individual. The internalization of what she learned may not last, nor is this new success guaranteed.
3. Paul will remain a wise but empty person. Of all the five individuals, I wanted him to remain 15 so he could now feel the warmth and joy of intimacy. But it was not to be.
4. Amonthep is given the greatest opportunity to see himself in a new light. He almost succumbs to the temptations of being young but is jolted back into reality, by an unlikely source – his own 15-year-old son. He established a great relationship with his son, which had been strained when he was the older dad. They have learned respectability and acceptance of each other. They have seen that the strengths outweigh the weaknesses of each. He may yet be successful.
5. And then there is Jarunee. Her pain is palpable. All her life she kept to the rules. Her younger self was the same way, but she forces her ‘self’ to have experiences that give her a new perspective on living. She admits to loving for the first time but is unable to face it. Regrettably, life has a way of bringing you to a pinnacle, making you sense satisfaction and desire, and then taking it away from you in an instant. Her story is so real and the outcome is too late. Yet, she gave off herself to another individual that will have long-lasting effects for his life in the future. Her story is beautifully told in a deeply meditative and solemn way. With a twist of fate, she is denied loving her pursuer even though they are now closer in age.
The ensemble acting in this series is some of the finest I have seen. This kind of production is not easy. The younger selves have to establish the personalities of the older self, but yet not in a way that completely defines them. They must retain their youthful exuberance but show signs of their true personalities. And the older selves must carry on their core personalities, but now jaded by disappointment and life in general. All these actors and actresses did so with beauty and grace and whether young or old, did an amazing job of portraying their characters. As an example, one could ‘see’ Paul as being the same person throughout. Yet, when they were back in their younger bodies, they also had to retain the essence of their old selves. The roles were incredibly complex, and they all sculptured these transitions seamlessly and with total believability. It was easy to follow each of them, no matter what their ages were. So, it is difficult to pinpoint one, but I found Kob as the older Paul the most impactful and full of pained emotions. He portrayed the older Paul with sadness on the inside, yet with the pretense of being well-adjusted on the outside. His heartbreak of Matee telling him he was remarrying again was astonishingly pensive, simply conveyed with just facial features and a resignation of his whole body, not having to say a word. The story ends with him walking out from the wedding almost despondent, having to see the man he loved moving on with another, and the boy who loved his younger self, sitting there in pain after having given him a farewell note. It is all such an astonishing juxtaposition of one of life’s exigencies that must be faced alone. He having to carry those burdens for the rest of his life and the weight of that bearing down on him was shown in his face and in his posture. This indeed is one of the finest acting (BL) series I have ever seen.
There are just so many twists and turns in this series and so many interconnections with each other that it appears as if they all were puppets in a Marionette show. Their strings pulled by a cruel marionettist named, “Unrelenting”. Overall, this is a masterful series that exhibits rustically and visually what defines the saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” There are no magical do-overs without consequences with unpleasant outcomes.
The production of this series is very good for the most part, but a bit uneven. Way too much time was spent of young Jaya finding herself and retrying to be successful again. I found that quite tedious. It tripped over itself in too many places, especially when the same number one song that made her famous was sung and played over and over again in so many forms. Honestly, I could not speed up getting those songs fast enough. I do not mean to be offensive, but the singing was mediocre at best and at other times just awful. Way too much time is spend on her issues both as younger and older selves. It felt as if they cheated the other life stories. San’s life story is also dealt with extensively, but the other three were just short-changed. I wanted more.
Despite that, this truly is an astonishing series. It is a deeply introspective saga of life and its regrets. All were given the opportunity to complete unfinished business from their younger days. One was successful (Jaya). One (Amonthep) was partially successful but was given a path to a new beginning and contentment. But the three, with unresolved issues centering around love, were defeated. San, indeed found his old love and rekindled that connection, but it must remain elusive and unfulfilled as he never returned to his old self. One discovered her “bad” side and got to celebrate life with her first birthday party, but is denied the ultimate experience of reciprocal love. Paul discovers love is defined in many terms and shown in many forms, but the one with the deepest meaning for him will always remain elusive. What might have been unfinished in the past ostensibly may be better off there. Perhaps it is better to dwell on what we have rather than what we do not. They in essence, cannot change their individual outcomes. They may modify it but cannot change it.
If this story taught me anything, it taught me to never try to change the things we cannot. Perhaps it is best to simply live in the moment, remember the past with fondness, and those mistakes we made along the way are merely bumps along the road. If you got a flat tire along that road by driving over one of those bumps, you can either curse it and let it consume you or get out and try to fix it or change the tire. You choose. The concluding question is: Is it never too late?
This series will no doubt be on my list of “Must See” for 2022.
Rating 4.8 out of 5