Back in 2013, director Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit (Happy Old Year, Die Tomorrow) experimented with a unique narrative quest—a slice-of-life drama of an unusual source. Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy is the product, based on 410 consecutive tweets from a Thai teenager known as Mary Malony a.k.a. @marylony (still active tweeting from 2009 until today, with total followers around 554K). Every single tweet, mostly in the Thai language, appears on-screen via title-card every minute or so guiding us through the daily life of Mary (Patcha Poonpiriya), which might turn bizarre in one moment and banal at another.
Only the person behind the moniker of @marylony understands the real context of the tweets. They are sometimes random, but not soulless. Nawapol incorporates those seemingly random tweets into some days Mary’s walked through in her last year of high school. The tweets, appearing sometimes in very quick succession, work as an internal monologue that might foreshadow an event and, mostly, functions as Mary’s self-reflection tools as she’s coping with sudden changes in her life. The last year of school is proven to be a life-changing period for Mary as she’s struggling to finish the yearbook and coping with the possibility to get separated from her BFF, Suri (Chonnikan Netjui).
It takes a while to get used to the movie’s narrative which sometimes tends to lollygag and laze out with random contemplation, instead of exploring blooming conflicts. However, Mary’s thinking process is too amusing to miss. At one moment, she suddenly is obsessed to buy real jellyfishes, to which Suri suggests buying from an online retailer. In another moment of epiphany, Mary will talk about her admiration for Wong Kar Wai’s filmography as the movie suddenly enters a WKW mode complete with the slo-mo effect, cigarette complex, and a strange rendition of Yumeji’s theme. Meanwhile, she will mistakenly mix up Wong Kar Wai’s work with Ang Lee. These kinds of delightful thoughts are making Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy fortuitous and insightful at the same moment. How the movie adds contexts to teenagers’ random thought makes the whole movie feels more contemplative, if not rationalizing.
Patcha Poonpiriya (sibling of Nattawut Poonpiriya, director of Bad Genius) brings an enigmatic life to Mary with an elusive performance. It’s easy to associate her performance with Mary Malony’s persona emanated from her tweets. However, as the story goes bleaker and more profound, Patcha’s performance feels a little less engaging as the tweets felt more estranged to the plot. The movie’s third act, albeit more mature and powerful in content, feels like a part of a different movie that feels ironic to Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy‘s exclaiming title. It, on the other hand, confirms how the movie serves as a contemplative psychological examination of a teenager’s life and social commentary to the education system in Thailand.
While it’s considerably easy to judge the tweet title card a mere gimmick, it’s never meant to be taken for granted. Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy is an honest, reverse-engineered coming-of-age drama that understands its full potential and bloats it in terms of duration.