Thai heart-throb Sunny Suwanmethanon becomes pus-covered workaholic

Thai drama veers towards melodrama, but is saved by lead actor Sunny Suwanmethanon's performance



132 minutes/Opens tomorrow

3.5/5 STARS

The story: Freelance graphic designer Yoon (Sunny Suwanmethanon) goes to a doctor for a rash that spreads all over his body. The doctor (Davika Hoorne) warns him that he needs to take on fewer jobs to get better, but that proves to be difficult for the workaholic Yoon.

Audiences will be disappointed if they think this movie is going to be another giddy romcom typical of those produced by popular Thai film studio GTH, such as SuckSeed (2011) and Hello Stranger (2010).

Heart Attack is quieter and more meditative than you might expect as a result of its misleading marketing campaign comprising cutesy posters and an upbeat film trailer.

Surprisingly, it also contains little romance. Despite the presence of an attractive female star in the second lead role, the story focuses on protagonist Yoon's journey of self-discovery.

In the role of a brilliant but socially awkward graphic designer here, actor Sunny Suwanmethanon betrays no trace of the heart-throb who had so effortlessly charmed viewers with his goofy mechanic role in last year's mega-hit I Fine... Thank You... Love You.

Yoon, looking perpetually grumpy and grimy, has only one goal in life - to work as much as he can so he can become the best in the business. He even lugs his laptop with him to the funeral of a friend's father, hiding in a corner in search of a Wi-Fi signal.

All other activities, whether it is watching TV or even sleeping, are a complete waste of time to him.

When his health suffers and he is forced on the road to recovery, he finally takes stock of the quality of his life.

This is where the actor truly shines, as he convincingly displays all the loneliness and insecurities of a man who is at a loss when his life is no longer filled with mind-numbing jobs.

The scene where he imagines his own funeral is especially poignant as he realises that it would be a badly attended one.

The film goes on for too long and veers towards melodrama, but it is saved by Suwanmethanon's likeability and heartfelt performance.

His interactions with his deadpan work partner Je (Violette Wautier) and the mini crush he has on his doctor feel authentic.

With this compelling film filled with sharp observations about life, box-office king GTH has taken a risk to produce a different kind of film from its usual slate of manic slapstick gags - and it pays off.

Being covered in rashes a small price to pay

Nawapol is weird. Making this movie with him was as if I took a ride on a spaceship and landed on a never-before-seen planet.

ACTOR SUNNY SUWANMETHANON on writer-director Nawapol Thamrongratanarit

For his new movie Heart Attack, Thai actor Sunny Suwanmethanon goes quite far in shedding his heart-throb image.

More than just looking sloppy and dead tired in wrinkled tees and with dark eye circles, the 34-year-old shows off much pasty white skin with lots of unsightly skin rashes.

He says in an e-mail interview with Life that it is a small price to pay if the role is one that he feels good about .

"I choose to take on a role if I like it and if I feel good about the script. Then, I just throw myself into the role completely," explains the actor, who adds that the process of painting the pus-filled spots all over his body took more than an hour each time.

Heart Attack, which opens in cinemas tomorrow, centres on his character, a workaholic graphic designer whose body starts breaking down from lack of rest.

A bad skin condition forces him to visit the hospital and he is assigned a pretty doctor (Davika Hoorne), whom he develops a crush on.

The story comes from writer- director Nawapol Thamrongratanarit, who reportedly nursed a secret crush on his physician after falling ill from exhaustion.

The 31-year-old film-maker, who previously made the award-winning coming-of-age movie Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy (2013), is known for his offbeat sense of humour and goofball charm.

Suwanmethanon attests to that side to the film-maker. He says with a laugh: "Nawapol is weird. Making this movie with him was as if I took a ride on a spaceship and landed on a never-before-seen planet."

To make Heart Attack, the director had to rein in his wackiness. Even though it is produced by popular Thai production house GTH, the tone of the work is a lot more serious than its previous films.

Some of the most well-known GTH films include last year's mega-hit romantic comedy I Fine... Thank You... Love You, which also starred Suwanmethanon in the lead role, as well as the feel-good box office hits Suckseed (2011) and horror-comedy Pee Mak (2013).

Despite the risk-taking nature of this current movie, Suwanmethanon was eager to give it a go.

Says the bachelor: "Even though the director himself isn't sure if this movie would make any money, I went for it because I felt good about it.

"I'd rather do that than just go for the script that everyone says would be a 100-million-baht movie for sure.

"I choose good intentions over money matters."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2015, with the headline 'Heart Attack gets clean bill of health Being covered in rashes a small price to pay'. Print Edition | Subscribe