Tanwarin Sukkhapisit’s third feature looks like a film of three unrelated shorts. They share a theme about the problems that trans-gender people encounter in society.
The first film has the 50-something transgender Saitarn setting out on a journey to the north, where she loiters around an old man’s shop and falls in love with the young man next door. The second story is about a twenty-something who returns from the United States to receive his father’s inheritance. That turns out to be a transvestite show bar, so he discovers his father’s secret at last. The third story is about a boy who is sent to be a monk by his father as he is afraid of his son’s sexual orientation. As the movie comes to an end, it is twisted into a fun-but-dramatic encounter.
It Gets Better is a kind of correction to Sukkhapisit’s controversial Insects in the Backyard, which was banned last year. According to the ratings committee, Insects in the Backyard could not be shown due to its portrayal of a “bad” transgender father, graphic sexuality, and allusions to teen prostitution. Insects in the Backyard tells about the misbehaviour of a transgendered father (playing by Sukkhapisit herself) and how this results a bad relationship between the father and his teenage son and daughter. It features a scene where the son dreams of killing his father. But now we have a good, devoted father in It Gets Better.
Sukkhapisit shows skill in keeping It Gets Better light and dramatic. It’s certainly different to her last two films: the indie project Insects in the Backyard and the mainstream Mahasarakam Love (Hakna Mahasarakam). Sukkhapisit knows how to blend between the free spirit of indie films and mainstream filmmaking. This time, a professional crew has led to good results.
As a well-known acting coach, Sukkhapisit knows how to get the best from her performers, even though some of them are first-timers. Veteran actress Penpak Sirikul greatly convinces us of her complex identities between a child and a father, a transvestite and a transgender person. Her nomination for best actress is deserved. First-time actor Pawit Saproonroj moves us to tears with his internal conflicts. He tries to be a good son to his father but he also wants to remain true to his heart.
Most of the performers are born for these roles. They are real-life transvestites and transgender people. Some are well-known in entertainment circles. Editor Manussa Vorasingha should also be applauded for mixing the three shorts into a complete feature. The ending is too long and does not need to disclose of the clues that are shown throughout.
It Gets Better is a little Thai film that tells the world that the trans-gender lives are not easy even in a country with an open minded attitude to sex. It is the director’s best work so far.