Movie Review – Grace [NYAFF 2016]

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EXPECTATIONS: A darkly comedic yarn, similar to Eli Roth’s Knock Knock.

REVIEW: Social media has become a popular trope in films today, whether it is just used as a means for sufficient storytelling to making biopics about people that have pioneered the trend to even using it as social commentary. And from social commentary, it has even sprouted into more sub-genres; the popular one being cyber-bullying. Shown in mostly horror films and teen dramas like the underrated Unfriended and the darkly hilarious Knock Knock, this particular theme can be mined for compelling thematic material. Enter the Thailand thriller, Grace, a film that is part home invasion thriller, part exploitation flick and part psychological character study; all wrapped within a slither of dark social commentary. Does the film reach up to its ambitions or will it be forgotten like another social trend like…planking?

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Ple (Latkamon Pinrojkirati) is an ordinary high school student who loves spending quality time with her best friend, Care (Napasasi Surawan), who is popular for being precocious and cute. Together, they create a Facebook page (called Summer Trick) for Care to share her personal photos and videos to garner Facebook likes from the public, in hope of becoming a popular internet idol. It then captures the attention of Grace (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk) and her obsessive fan; a deranged lunatic named Jack (Nutthasit Kotimanuswanich), as Care’s Facebook page is public for everyone to see. Grace and Jack devise a plan to take Care and Ple hostage, with their motives unbeknownst to each other. Stricken with jealously over her swift rise to Facebook fame, Grace torments and abuses Care, which sets off a cataclysmic sort of events that end up in bloody circumstances.

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“We all live in public now, we’re all on the Internet. How do you think people become famous anymore?! You don’t have to achieve anything! You just gotta have fucked up shit happen to you.” That is a quote from the underappreciated Scream 4, and boy, does this quote apply to Grace. Themes like cyber-bullying and the objectification of women through pop culture and social media are given a thrashing of an exploration by writers/directors Pun Homchuen and Onusa Donsawai. Deftly shown through flashbacks developing the character Grace, it presents a condemning examination on the price of popularity and how the objectification of women has warped Grace’s mind, and the directors have presented that well. I haven’t seen a scathing look at the objectification of women since Sion Sono’s trippy horror film, Tag.

And when I said that the quote above applies to the film, I also meant the titular character as well. Played with such sadistic glee and understated sadness, Apinya Sakuljaroensuk is a ball as Grace; so much so that it was decided that the international title of the film was named after her. Good thing too since she is the best thing in this film. The rest of the cast do fine with what material they are given, particularly Napasasi Surawan as the innocent-looking Care and Nutthasit Kotimanuswanich, who surprisingly gives an understated and realistic performance as the perverted and depraved Jack, who just might have a conscience. But the real star is Sakuljaroensuk, which is ironically the best thing about the movie as well as the worst thing in the story. If that makes sense.

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Although this does not bother me much, I have to state that this film is shockingly violent and it gradually becomes more so till its bloody climax. It actually is reminiscent of French horror films like High Tension and Inside. The gore is not overstated like torture porn films like Saw, but it will definitely rile some people.  And the same goes for some of the actions of the characters, which are very few, but they can irk some people i.e. It is not a good idea that you antagonize the culprit when they are armed and at their most vulnerable.  The flashbacks, while are very important to the character development, can be a bit confusing due to how they are inserted, since there is very little use of transitions to inform the audience about them. Also hindering the storytelling is the English subtitles. They can be a bit confounding when they translate Thai text from Facebook, which may dilute the drama, particularly the ending, so for those who need glasses better equip yourself for some fast reading.

Grace is full of fury and anger but a great performance from Apinya Sakuljaroensuk; the game supporting cast; the razor-edged look on cyber-bulling, social media, popularity and the objectification of women and its shocking violence will make it a cult experience for brave viewers.

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Quickie Review

PROS

A fantastic performance from Apinya Sakuljaroensuk

Enthusiastic supporting cast

Themes and social commentary add a lot of punch

CONS

Violence will shock some

English subtitles may be hard to read in scenes involving Facebook

Confusing actions from characters

Flashback insertions can be a bit confusing

SCORE: 7/10

Cast: Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Nuttasit Kotimanuswanich, Parisa Pinyakamolchart, Napasasi Surawan
Director: Pun Homchuen and Onusa Donsawai
Screenwriters: Pun Homchuen and Onusa Donsawai

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