Movie review: Why this Thai drama is a box office hit 2
Culture

Movie review: Why this Thai drama is a box office hit

Filipino films are languishing in cinemas, so it is surprising that tickets to 'How To Make Millions Before Grandma Dies' are sold-out, even when it is in a foreign language.
Fred Hawson | Jun 03 2024

In "How To Make Millions Before Grandma Dies," Mengju (Usha Seamkhum) was an elderly woman who lived alone in her old house and sold congee every morning as a living. She had three grown-up children. Kiang (Sanya Kunakorn) was the wealthy son. Soei (Pongsatorn Jongwilas) was the jobless son. Her only daughter Sew (Sarinrat Thomas) was a single mom who worked in a supermarket. Her only son M (Putthipong Assaratanakul, a.k.a. Billkin) dropped out of school to be an online gamer. 

One day, the family found out that Mengju had stage 4 cancer of the intestines. Inspired by his cousin Mui (Tontawan Tantivejakul) who inherited the mansion of the old man she nursed before he died, M volunteered to stay with his grandmother or "Amah" at her home to take care of her. While his motives were entirely selfish at the start, M eventually got the drift of living with his Amah, while bearing witness to how members of her family treated her.

Billkin is a very popular young Thai TV actor and singer who is making his feature film debut here, as M. M was lazy and selfish at first, but Billkin certainly charmed his way through both in drama and comedy. Also making her big screen debut is Tu Tontawan, who broke through as the lead actress of "F4 Thailand" (2021), as the pragmatic nurse with an OnlyFans page, Mui. In the physically and emotionally challenging role of Amah, Usha Seamkhum pinched our hearts and conscience with her realistic motherly portrayal.

I am sure most Gen Z's can see themselves in the way Billkin portrayed M, as their Gen X parents see themselves as Mengju's children. Surely, most tears shed by the audience are tinged with guilt, as the movie makes us reflect about our own elders, and how we are treating (or treated) them. With the ominous title, as well as the opening scene in the cemetery, we know how the film will end. However, the twists and turns getting there are worth our while. 

"How To Make Millions Before Grandma Dies" was co-written and directed by Pat Boonnitipat, in his feature film directorial debut. He led us through the dynamics of a Thai-Chinese family, sadly noting how daughters were disadvantaged over sons. We saw Thai-Chinese cemetery traditions during the Qingming festival, equivalent of our All Saints Day. We also got a glimpse inside a Thai charity hospital, specifically for cancer patients, including their unique way of queuing up. 

Filipino films are languishing in cinemas, so it is surprising that tickets to this Thai movie are sold-out, even when it was in a foreign language and had English subtitles. This story was not really uniquely Thai, and could easily have been written by a Filipino. Filipino writers should try come up with another original heart-warming family-themed tearjerker. Filipino audiences love their families and a good cathartic cry, and this combo leads to box office gold.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, “Fred Said.”