I can almost see it
That dream I’m dreaming
But, there’s a voice inside my head saying
You’ll never reach it
-THE CLIMB – Miley Cyrus
These are the lyrics to a beautiful song by Miley Cyrus which simply encapsulates this series. These words are sad and this series, overall, is also profoundly sad. This whole series straddles between maudlin and sad but never quite gets to despondency. The characters are all rudderless, and this story is a saga about people who are essentially lost, confused, unhappy, and joyless. Especially so for the main characters. It does effectively show us the power of depression and what the inability to be real and true to yourself can do to you. In other words, this is an unhappy journey to a love that will never be reached and, in reality, never should be.
The story is a hodge-podge of emotions and confusions. Although it centers on two main characters, the story is really about a whole group of people. Ironically, we find out more about the secondary characters than we do about the main ones. It all begins when Mon (Gap Arunraktham) inadvertently walks into the wrong apartment. He walks into the apartment of So (Mhing Ruengkitrattanakun) believing it is his friend’s place. Although this story starts out interestingly enough, it just never seems to get to a point. It is obvious that the two develop an attraction for each other, but neither one wants to act on it, or admit to their feelings, until in reality, it is too late. That is the pain of this series. We never get to see them as a couple or frankly, really understand them. They have closed themselves off not only to each other but to the world. Both are reserved, sad, depressed, and withdrawn figures who have allowed their past to dictate who they are and what they will become. Occasionally we see glimpses of them breaking away from that, but most of the time, they continue to shut themselves off and put up this cone of silence around them.
The real star of this series is basketball. It is the glue that keeps this series together. It is also the one thing that brings joy to Mon. He becomes a different person when he is on the basketball court. Although there is an enlightening story as to why that is the case, it is merely a ‘red herring’. Mon resumes playing basketball again and, doing so, helps him to reconnect with an old friend, Saint (Offroad Jindataweephol). In the beginning, Mon seemed destined to become a great basketball star until he meets Saint and introduces him to the game. But Saint outshines him and becomes the darling that Mon was expected to be. Mon becomes nothing more than a bench-warmer. So, the groundwork for a complex and intense love-hate relationship blossoms. Fast forward to the present when they reconnect again. Mon remains bitter and has internalized those feelings to the point that he is a withdrawn and a sad figure enveloped by his depression. Yet, it becomes Saint who helps him to recover and begin to put back the broken pieces to life. But Mon is never put back together fully.
Ironically, with the help from Saint, Mon works up enough courage to admit to So that he likes him only for So to reject him even though he also likes him. So’s reasoning for the rejection is a smokescreen for his inability to be forthright, sincere, and real for a change. Subsequently, there is this inane cat-and-mouse game that they play with their emotions and each other to avoid facing responsibility, honesty, maturity, and acumen.
While the signs were obvious, it never dawned on Mon that perhaps Saint was in love with him. When Saint does admit that to Mon finally, Mon is now put into the same position that he put So in – liking someone that cannot like you back.
Of course, there is more to this story, but it all gets so weighted down by its own inertia. Rather than going somewhere, it just spins on its own axis, and we literally know and learn nothing about Mon and So. Both are so withdrawn, depressed, fearful, and damaged. They are incapable of connection and that does not change. Both turn to alcohol to numb their pain and forget who they are. While subtle in its approach, this saga is a classic tale of how and why people turn to drugs or alcohol to escape. It numbs all the internal pain, even if it is only temporary.
This is not a good series and I found it almost completely free of enjoyment. It is not even entertaining unless you are like watching individuals spiral down a rabbit hole. None of that makes it necessarily a ‘bad’ series. It just begged the question: What was its point? What made it ‘not good’ is its complete lack of focus as to what is important. What is the story about? If it was a story about Mon and So, then it failed. Neither one of these characters was fully explored or even developed, and frankly too damaged to even think about getting into a relationship, which was seriously never addressed. Sure, we got to ‘know’ them superficially, but we never found out who they really were let alone, why they liked each other at all. Yes, time was spent on seeing how they grew up, what made them who and what they are, but the present, the here and now with them, is simply glossed over. It was as if someone said, “Ok, here they are, now what do we do with them?” This is the classic tale of two ships passing in the night. You see, the outline of who they are and can see their exterior, but you never really know what is going on inside of them. The ending is bittersweet and surprising for the best, as neither one had any real commitment to ‘love’.
Never once did I believe in the relationship between Mon and So. Did two lonely misunderstood guys find each other and learned to commiserate about their miserable lives? Yes. Lovers? No. Were there hidden feelings between Saint and Mon that were way more complex and more deeply camouflaged than we could see? Yes. If really explored, could they have been lovers? Perhaps. This series had no serious direction and really no love connections. In my mind, this is not even a BL, as that implies some modem of connection between the two which I did not see at all. Whatever they shared were merely flings, not love.
The acting in this series is unusually uneven, with neither major character taking center stage. Both consistently remained true to form, and that is what the problem is. We STILL do not know why they did not grow, learn, change, or feel. Offroad as Saint did an admirable job of playing a complex character hidden from view but yet he managed to grow and develop and, most importantly, reflect and ponder on what is important to him. The complexities of emotions he felt for Mon seemed real and he learned at the end to appreciate that remaining friends with him is still a way to have Mon in his life.
But for me, who captured this series was Mon’s brother, Mickey, played brilliantly by Copper Chotiratanasak. He, as the younger brother, brought so much to his role and honestly was the most genuine character in this series. He is astute, perceptive, precocious, and at the age where he is still a boy but not yet an adult, but desperately wants to be. He recognizes early on that Mon likes So and So likes him back. What he gave to this role was a certain set of realistic standards. He wants to be an adult, but knows he is not quite ready. He portrayed his character with a lot more complexity than I was expecting. Supportive of his brother, he can also see Mon’s many weaknesses. There is such a dynamic yet very subtle scene in this series where he runs away from home and stays with one of Mon’s friends, Q (Pide Sumonvarangkul). Impulsively, he kisses Q which both startles Q and perhaps interests him. Mickey is at such an age that maybe he was trying something on for size, or does really feel something for him, or is merely being precocious. At the end, we see him wanting to sit next to Q at a basketball game with Q not feeling any sense of discomfort with that. It is such an adorable exchange and a real coming-of-age moment that this series captured well. (I would like to see this as a series; it might be a very interesting new series).
What was good about this series is all the other characters that were introduced. I enjoyed those stories more. The roommates were captivating and in a few cases; I thought some of their stores would make interesting series. They ‘teased’ a lot of connections. What was also interesting and unexpected were the unusual pairings that were hinted as well. I thought the liking of Amy (Olive Chiwpreecha) for the basketball coach was creative and twisted the story so that it was not so predictable. And added an element of realism to this series. (Students do get attracted to instructors). And towards the end, perhaps a budding romance between Saint and his current basketball friend Tim (Zax Suthisawan).
In another twist of irony, admittedly, the screenplay is one of the best written for a Thai BL series to come across in a long time. It had some great dialogue between characters, and life’s lessons in transitioning from childhood to adulthood are well described. But as good as some of the screenplay was, it did not translate into memorable scenes. Two reasons for that. The main actors were too monotonal and were not given proper direction in how and when to change from being themselves into other versions of being themselves. That may sound counterintuitive, but there was no drama in their acting. The two had the same flat effect from the beginning to the end and therefore our interest in them waned as time went on. Second, there was no clear focus here. Is it a story of Mon and So. Or is it a story of the effects of not living out your dreams? Or is it a story of Mon and Saint? Or is it a story of mental health issues that remained unresolved? Or is it merely a coming-of-age story? All of these were touched upon, but none of them clearly was the focus.
When there is finally a moment of intimacy, it was one of the worst ‘intimate’ scenes I have ever seen, which, true to form, happens at the end. It looked forced, contrived, and devoid of even pretending to find each other’s company pleasurable. I have seen my share of bad kissing, but frankly this was the worst. It honestly looked like the two of them were going to vomit if their lips even remotely locked together. That negated any hint of connection or intimacy. That kissing scene was shameful and woeful. Come on! Give it some spark or life or commitment. If this is a supposed love story, then at least pretend or act like you are kissing and you find it enjoyable. Is that too much to ask?
From a production standpoint, it was filmed well except for some sound issues. Two recommendations I might suggest here. Please stop with the awful music numbers! Please! I do not know whether it was simply recording issues or amateurish playing, but the music numbers were utterly cringeworthy. And the singing was atrocious. I hated all the musical numbers and fast-forwarded through them all. If you cannot sing, then do not, or ‘dub ‘in a singing voice. Better yet, there is no need to have constant musical numbers in these series.
I know that it sounds like I disliked this series. And that is correct. But for me, I think I was more disappointed than perhaps disliking it. The coming-of-age storylines were quite good and had this series been focused, it would have been a brilliant series. Instead, it just seemed maladroit and befuddled.
Rating- 3 out of 5