VOD film review: Fathers
Ivan Radford | On 18, Jun 2017
Director: Palatpol Mingpornpichit
Cast: Asda Panichkul, Nat Sakdatorn, Aritach Pipattangkul
Watch Fathers online in the UK: Amazon Prime / FilmDoo
“How much do you love them?” “The most in the world.” That’s Butr (Aritach Pipattangkul) talking about his fathers in Palatpol Mingpornpichit’s film titled, simply, Fathers. “Why is that?” asks his social worker. “I don’t know,” he replies. “But it’s so much.”
It’s in those simple observations that Mingpornpichit’s drama finds its heartwarming complexity – and it has them in abundance. Fathers follows Phoon (Asda Panichkul) and Yuke (Nat Sakdatorn), a couple who have been together for 13 years. Along the way, they’ve adopted Butr, an orphan who agrees when they say that he’s a special child lucky enough to have two dads rather than a dad and a mum. When he goes to school, though, he finds that belief challenged by the other kids, who laugh at, and bully, him.
A classroom punch-up later and both Phoon and Yuke are in the headmistress’ office, apologising for their son’s behaviour to another boy’s parent. But it soon becomes apparent that they’re not just defending him: they’re having to defend themselves. The movie is set against the backdrop of a same-sex marriage bill about to be passed into law, but in real life, there’s no such bill on the cards – Thailand is a country where such relationships are sternly frowned upon, where raising a child in a homosexual relationship, no matter how loving, is sadly considered abnormal, and certainly doesn’t have the same rights as a heterosexual household.
Loving is the key word here – and director Platphol Mingpornpichit captures the bond between the two men with an immediately believable sincerity. From their smiling interactions with Butr to them simply riding a motorbike together, their relationship is endearingly convincing, with Sakdatorn (a pop star turned actor) generating wonderful chemistry with Panichkul.
But in the face of such huge pressures, Butr ends up going to live with his estranged biological mother in the hope of diminishing the negative attention he’s getting at school. Mingpornpichit stays with our lead couple to show us life without their son – and with marriage registration and more complications weighing upon them, their once happy domestic situation begins to sour.
The decision to stick with them gives the partners plentiful opportunities to bring new depths to their characters, one stubborn, quicker to anger and the other quieter and scared, but we also follow Butr – and the quality that the trio all have in common is their ability to articulate the way they’re feeling in the most honest, vulnerable way. Where the men might clam up around other parents, timid to admit their relationship, they have no such reservations with each other, and Aritach Pipattangkul follows their lead in a beautifully nuanced performance completely free of artifice.
Even at 90 minutes, the narrative’s pace is occasionally too slow, but there’s charm aplenty in that gentle mundanity – this is a film that answers such big questions as why mothers exist, what counts as a father, and whether being normal in the eyes of the law matters with tiny day-to-day gestures of affection, and dialogue that repeatedly refuses to go for climactic confrontations or easy dramatics. “Do you love me?” asks Butr’s mum, in a scene that a US film would turn into a big moment of reconciliation. Butr smiles as he gets out of the car and shrugs. “I don’t know.”
Fathers is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.