Anything with a runtime of more than two hours gets strictly categorized as a longer film in our minds, and we immediately start thinking about how it could have been shorter. But in the case of Once Upon a Star, we are talking about a story of the past, so in its own way, the length makes sense. Our feeling of the movie having a tad bit of extra runtime is still there, but the story justifies its minutes.
Let us talk about the actors first since we absolutely love Weir Sukollawat, and he is the only one we knew about when we started the movie. We remember seeing him first in a Lakorn named “Pin Anong,” and that led us down a rabbit hole where we had to watch everything that he had starred in. What had always struck us was his ability to shine through such lackluster stories. His charm had been undeniable, and even in his most hyper-masculine roles, he brought a very believable vulnerability and tenderness that set him apart from the others. This was a few years ago, and we have since fallen out of the Lakorn madness. That is why when we saw him as the protagonist of Once Upon a Star, it was a surprise we enjoyed, and we felt validated about believing that he could always do so much more. If we may say so, age has only done him more justice than before. As a non-resident of Thailand, we were not familiar with the other actors, but they seemed to have done well in their parts. It was Samart Payakaroon, in the character of Man, who stood out to us among the rest. He barely speaks throughout the film, yet there is something about his expressions and smile that just makes his presence felt. It is fitting that these were the actors cast in a film that so heavily dealt with what it means to love someone we see on the screen.
As dubbing artists, the characters live the lives of the characters played by Mitr Chaibancha. It is natural to feel that we know something about the actor on screen once we feel like we have a hold of their process of the art. That is what made Mitr Chaibancha such an apt choice to be at the center of the narrative because it all came together in how and why the characters felt that he was one of them, a true friend.
Basically, the look and fashion of the film are very chic, and we must comment on the understated wanderlust-inspiring quality of the cinematography. After all, a traveling troupe is the main character of the story, and we had to see why they loved being on the road so much. That is because the road itself is that beautiful, and ignoring the tad bit of inconvenience, who wouldn’t want to brush their teeth while facing the mountains? On a different note, we are not fans of the love triangle that was incorporated into the film. It was unnecessary and should have been replaced by friendship. Perhaps Man could have gotten some dialogue, or the four of them could have sat around a bonfire and spoken about their love for the films and shown why their dreams were so important to them. That would have made far more sense than this troublesome equation. It felt like the film’s only easy cop-out of a deeper conversation around dreams and cinema.
But let us discuss Mitr Chaibancha. The only reason we are addressing him so late in this article is because, as a non-resident of Thailand, we needed to study the actor’s history before we could talk about him. To understand the context of the film, Mitr Chaibancha was the reason Thailand’s population flocked to cinemas so ardently after World War 2. His films were made without any sound, and it was up to the live dubbing artist to convey the dialogue of the film to the audience. Therefore, they were as much a part of his persona as the actor himself. The accident that took his life is accurately shown, and it happened during the shooting of Insee Thong (Golden Eagle). He was 36 years old at the time, and with his death, Thai cinema stopped shooting on the 16mm film. As was shown in the film, people flocked to witness his funeral rites, and he was an actor who defined the work of many for generations to come.
Knowing the life and story of Mitr Chaibancha adds more depth to Once Upon a Star. It helps us draw parallels with legends like the actor that we are familiar with and place ourselves in the shoes of the characters whose journeys we have seen. Also, one of the more underrated aspects of the movie is how love for someone shapes up when their image is not so highly commercialized. In the film’s setting, we saw that the characters were trying to keep up with the changing times and make adjustments accordingly. If you compare that to today’s landscape, times are changing by the second, but the difference is that at that time, it was about maintaining a connection with the audience, while now, that seems to be the lesser concern in comparison to the objective of making money. Maybe that is why we needed to watch a film like Once Upon a Star, which is as simple as a love letter in an age of empty grandness and which helped us remember what it means to love films without always being bombarded by the next compulsory thing to watch.
There is something so unmissable about Once Upon a Star. At the risk of sounding like a cliche, it is about love for life and what makes it beautiful. There is a relevance to this story that cannot be ignored at any age. None of the things in the film exist in the present day, but their story resonates within us as we go about our life, questioning the worth of all our choices and where they might lead. We are not saying that this film gives you the answers, but it makes you believe in the magic of everyday life, and we would say that you should not miss it.