It is a Monday and a start of another beautiful week. And with the weekend out of the way, I have some good time on my hands to explore and scout for new content across the globe. And I did realise that I haven’t quite watched and reviewed content across the globe recently. And so I decided to watch and review a Thai film, Hunger which is streaming on Netflix. One of the reasons why I was looking forward to watching this film was because it did have food as a theme and it was a story revolving around it.
One of my main reasons of exploring films is to understand culture and I strongly feel that films are a window of the culture represented in that country. But food also does represent culture. The different cuisines passed down through generations quite often does boast of interesting origin stories and they make for some great tales.
But food as a genre as been less tapped in films across the globe. A few great films that do instantly come to mind are The Menu, Chef, Boiling Point or even the animated film Ratatouille that did have interesting subjects and consistently did stay true to its source material. A thing as common as food, and something that is absolutely necessary for survival has not really set the silver screen ablaze as far as the films in the genre are concerned. That said, does Hunger manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Hunger follows the story of a street food chef who would go to any length in pushing her limits after accepting an invitation to work under a ruthless celebrity chef. The story here is interesting and it does give a vibe of ‘Whiplash’ centered around the theme of food. The screenplay standing at almost 145 minutes does manage to impress even though the writers do not quite nail the subject completely.
The drama does open with the introduction of the head chef, a tough taskmaster and a ruthless perfectionist who demands the same kind of intensity and perfection from the chefs under him. The opening sequence is not for the faint-hearted, particularly vegetarians, as it does involve an anhillation of a lobster before cooking it and decorating it on a plate. Soon, you are introduced to the protagonist who is working at a local street food joint until she is spotted and given an opportunity to work under one of the best celebrity chefs. At this point, the writers do well in drawing a line by distinguishing between the two worlds – one stricken with poverty and the other being more aspirational of working in a top tier restaurant and serving the A-listers! For instance, the protagonist is seen to be profusely sweating while working in her joint. Using this as a reference, the chef after sniffing at her asked her to wash up and change before entering the kitchen.
The proceedings are impressive and engrossing particularly in the first hour when an unassuming protagonist does show nerves of steal by going to any length in exchange for some validation from the head chef. The events did have the soul of Whiplash wherein you could feel the heat and intensity of the protagonist. A clear misfit in the kitchen, the ability of the protagonist to rise above all odds does make for a compelling viewing. But the drama is also a fascinating character study of the head chef, an individual denied off the rich privileges right from his childhood. The socio-economical commentary is nicely integrated in the drama that does show how pretentious food can be while being served to the upper class.
There are subtle twists and turns that depict the lengths at which the head chef would go to obtain the right kind of ingredients. The subtle ego-clash between two high profile individuals amidst a budding love story is also depicted well. The part where the film does falter is in the final act which had its messaging garbled along with the events being rushed. It tried to say many things but none of it did feel distinctive or clear. Also, the simplistic transformation of the protagonist did feel a little odd and it didn’t quite land at the end. I felt perhaps a clear message at the end was necessary to elevate the drama to the next level. Despite that, the screenplay here is interesting and does make for a good watch.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are quite good and do leave a desired impact. The BGM is exquisite and it does blend really well with the drama. The cinematography showcasing the stylized but gory food presentations does capture the essence of the drama really well. The editing is pretty sharp too. Director Sitisiri Mongkolsiri does a good job in keeping the viewers consistently invested right throughout. If not for the stutter at the end, the direction is pretty good here!
The performances are excellent here. Bhumibhat Thavornsiri as Au has his moments to shine. Gunn Svasti as Tone is charming and has a good presence onscreen. Nopachai Chaiyanam as Chef Paul is brilliant and quite intimidating with his mannerisms. He does send a shiver down your spine every time he appears onscreen, simply because his character was quite unpredictable. Chutimon Chuengchar as Aoy is excellent and you can literally see her putting a lot of blood and sweat into her character. Also her ability to showcase her vulnerability while dabbling with many emotions was terrific to witness.
Despite faltering in its third course, Hunger is a tasty drama that makes for a delicious and fiery watch. Available on Netflix.