Friday, 30 March 2012

ATM/Er Rak Error (Mez Tharatorn) Film Review

It's all thanks to Golden Village and the omy Blog Club that I got to enjoy this terrifically funny movie about a reel life couple who is every bit as weird and wonderful as, well, the real life couple that is my SO and I. No apologies made for being cheesy here, because cheesy is what ATM (Mez Tharatorn) does so well that it exudes an ironic self-awareness, setting it apart from the more hare-brained comedies proliferating in the movie industry.


The premise that advances the plot of ATM is a bank's non-fraternisation policy that trips up two employees working in its ATM department. The couple in question, Sua (Chantawit Thanasevee) and his long-time girlfriend cum superior Jib (Preechaya Pongthananikorn), have been dating secretly for 5 years, taking all precautions to ensure their relationship is kept secret. Upon confronting two other employees about their forbidden romance, Jib gets increasingly anxious about her own secret relationship and tensions grow between her and Sua. In an attempt to resolve the situation, Sua proposes to Jib on a whim - but wait, hold the tears and bridal showers - no one is getting married until one of them quits their job in accordance with bank policy. Much hilarity ensues as both Sua and Jib try to force the other to quit their job through childish taunts and couple fights.

In the meantime, an ATM breaks down and dispenses extra cash to a number of people. Jib is tasked by the boss of the ATM department to track these people down and recover the money, and she cleverly strikes a deal with Sua - whoever manages to recover all the money first will be able to keep their job while the other has to resign. Thus begins a fun-filled romp through the streets of Thailand, filled with the wacky hijinks of Jib, Sua and the other characters as their lives briefly converge because of the faulty ATM. The film chronicles their lives as they love, deceive and finally reconcile with one another.

While some aspects of ATM do strike me as bizarre (e.g. the crocodile sub-plot), the comedic elements were so exaggerated and overdone that they provided endless amusement. One of the elements that stood out was the use of cheesily epic music and sound effects. Almost every action had an accompanying sound effect, simultaneously elevating the mood of the film but also ironically subverting the importance of the events in the plot through a hyperbolic overuse of sound. In contrast to the flashy sound effects, the acting was very believable, with the romantic parts being suitably touching and the comic bits completely over the top and insanely funny. If the acting had been more naturalistic, ATM would have been a much more awkward, painful film to watch. Thankfully that was not the case. In addition, the on-screen chemistry between Jib and Sua was palpable and pleasing, even as their reel romance hit the rocks during their numerous stand-offs. The combination of Jib's quirky, slightly manic character and Sua's comical, bumbling character pulled together the loose ends of an otherwise believable comic plot. Their likeability had the audience rooting for them throughout the film though no one doubted for a second that they would eventually end up together, even with obstacles such as the minor character of the manager's son.

And now for the more serious bits: ATM had me laughing all the way out the theatre, but it also made me think about some social issues it raised. The role of women in the workplace vs. the home was quite an important trope that the film highlighted. Jib, the savvy, independent career woman, resists Sua's attempts to get her to become a housewife. She emblematises the kind of role model that modern women aspire to - strong, capable, independent - but ultimately still submits under the male hierarchy and resigns from her job (though due to her boss finding out about her relationship). There also seems to be some social commentary on the stark difference in the standard of living between the poor and the middle-income brackets in society through the visual cues of the surroundings and clothing worn by the characters. These little touches of detail in the film made it especially endearing, as it captured the different facets of life in Thailand, and drew the viewer into the world of the film.

In retrospect, I stepped into the theatre not expecting much, but I walked away with a much revised opinion of the film's merit. ATM was a worthy watch, if not only for the many hearty laughs it elicited from me, but also for the lingering aftertaste that stayed on long after the laughter had died down.

ATM started screening on 29 March 2012 in Singapore. Go catch it in theatres now!

Rachel loves sharing about the beautiful things in life from different perspectives. She writes on beauty and lifestyle in Cherchez Beauté , and does more abstract stuff on Antelune . When she's not writing, she's playing with her dog Holly, doodling and reading fiction. You can follow her on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram .