Directed by Joel Soisson
Starring Lily Patra, Pan Rugtawatr and Geoffrey Giuliano
It is not often that a modern film about teenagers avoids turning them into cliches. Even more rare is the film that doesn’t talk down to its audience.
It is refreshing to see a film such as Joel Soisson’s “My Best Worst Adventure,” a sweet coming-of-age story in which Jenny, a young woman, is sent to Thailand to stay with her grandmother after her mother passed away. She refuses to communicate except through writing.
Jenny does not want to leave her home home, , she compares living with her mother’s family to being “abducted by aliens.”
To add to the youngster’s discomfort, she is forced to spend her summer going to school—and what red-blooded kid wants to do that?
A local boy, Boonrod, attracts her attention. Boonrod has only one friend, an ox. Jenny recognizes him as a bit of an outcast, much in the way she has constructed her own self-exile.
As the two strike up their mutually non-verbal friendship, Boonrod’s family is in serious need of money. Jenny learns of an ox race where the prize winnings could help them out.
If films have taught us anything over the decades, it is that the adventure that Jenny and Boonrod share together will change one another’s lives for the better.
Lily Patra (Jenny) is a natural. Jenny is a girl that is forced to grow up much too soon. The loss of her mother leads to the loss of her own connection to other people. The actress has no real lines but embodies a perfect balance of innocence, vexation, sadness, and bravery. It is a performance of pure naturalism.
Tuchapong Rugtawatr is all peaceful sweetness as Boonrod. He acts out because he has no true friends, and he just wants to be noticed and make a human connection. The smiles on his face when he and Jenny bond are pure and infectious and his pain watching his family goes through hardships will break your heart.
As the film moves towards its final act, we move into “The Black Stallion” territory, but this is no imitation. The final race is uplifting and leads to a moment of heartfelt companionship.
The film could have benefited from more scenes with Jenny and her grandmother but what ones do exist are heartwarming.
Soisson wrote the screenplay as well as directed it. While he cuts much too quickly to the chase and there really is not much more than its surface level drama, Soisson manages to overcome the simplicity of the piece through patient characterizations.
A few cliches abound in the script but not in its characters and the director achieves a strong sense of place, as Vardhana Wanchuplao’s camera soaks in the gorgeous landscapes of Thailand’s Chonburi province.
“My Best Worst Adventure” is a pleasant film that families can and should watch together. It is a film that bathes in beautiful cultures and opens its arms to the healing power of friendship.