Review Brother of the Year: In Vitthaya Thongyuyong’s GDH-produced blockbuster, what started out as a family dramedy about sibling rivalry quickly escalates into a full-fledged sentimental drama in an unexpected (but effectively presented) turn.
GDH darling, Sunny Suwanmethanont, stars as Chut—a less-motivated slacker, whose perfectly filthy bachelorhood life breaks after his multitalented sister, Jane (Urassaya Sperbund) returns home from her university time in Japan. As a blockbuster filled with sharp comedy materials upfront, it’s surprising that Brother of the Year takes a bold (but not strange) move to bit-by-bit leave its non-serious material (which powered most of its first half) and focus on a serious material, which might, at least, get lumps in your throat.
Similar to other GDH productions, Brother of the Year has the flair for dramatic. It’s good at exaggerating everything—from the comedy materials to some serious ones saved for later). The main protagonist a.k.a. the titular brother of the year, Chut, is described as having the ‘perfect’ slob life at home, at school, at work, at everything he does. In contrast, Jane is a straight-A girl whose existence always overshadows her brother’s for her entire life. Chut’s inferiority resulted from this intimidating rivalry manifests in how he treats himself as an unmotivated person and how he depends on Jane on almost everything.
Chut also channels his inferiority by ‘becoming a big brother’ when Jane is having a relationship with some boys. He enjoys his roles as a big brother to scare away Jane’s lovers—by doing so, he feels less inferior. Things begin to escalate quickly when Jane falls for Moji (Nichkhun from Korean boyband, 2PM), a Japanese-Thai bachelor and a colleague from work, who happens to be Chut’s advertising client. The sibling rivalry suddenly gets so much worsened that it threatens the siblings’ career and, apparently, siblinghood.
Basically, Brother of the Year works better when Moji, as a plot device, appears to provide the catalyst to the conflict. However, Thongyuyong seems to underuse the potential of this character aside from being eye-candy, which somehow feels like a distraction.
Sunny (Suwanmethanont) and Yaya (Urassaya Sperbund) delivers likable performance in contrasting the siblings; furthermore, they even deliver it better when they share chemistry as siblings. You know that when you start to believe that they’re real siblings with quite some characters. The idea of ‘popping’ Nichkhun’s Moji is an effective move to create chaos out of this order. However, in portraying Moji, Nichkhun seems to be too rigid to even break the familial ties between Chut and Jane. Consequently, his character seems to drown further in the background and his role is ‘substituted’ by the cultural subtext of Thai marriage.
When talking about subtext, Brother of the Year also subtly inserts the social and cultural subtext of modern Thai life into the story. There are some talks about Thai work ethos, mixed marriage in Thailand and references to local pop culture which appear not as some mere gimmicks but as an integral part of the story. Nevertheless, the story is always about a manchild and his self-centered world which leads to the eventual regret. And, when the final scene (which culminates how the manchild has grown over the years of a feud with the sister) finally rolls, it’s difficult to restrain emotion that has been gradually led to burst up to this point.
While the laugh is good and the love-hate drama is sweet, experiencing the laugh dims down and more heartfelt arises from there is a tough watch. And even though 125 minutes are a long walk, Brother of the Year might bring us there proudly if we allow ourselves playing in its game.