Some males purchase a Ferrari after they’re within the throes of a midlife disaster. Thana (Thaneth Warakulnukroh), the profitable architect who’s on the heart of writer-director Kirsten Tan’s wistful characteristic debut Pop Aye, buys an elephant. And though at first this seems to be an act of portentous quirkiness, it seems that the elephant, Pop Aye—performed by an elephant named Bong, certainly one of three actors listed within the movie’s credit—is similar one Thana grew up with on his uncle’s farm within the Thai countryside, and the duo’s lengthy stroll again to Thana’s hometown is not only a homecoming; it’s an act of penance.
Dissatisfied and feeling as if life is leaving him behind, Thana longs for an easier time, one much less beholden to trendy conveniences and consumerist luxuries. The movie takes a equally leisurely tack, ambling alongside at an unhurried tempo for a highway journey story that doubles as a travelogue of rural Thailand. A lot of the movie is break up between this odd-couple pilgrimage and scenes of Thana’s life again in Bangkok, the place his youthful co-workers are squeezing him out of his personal agency and his relationship along with his spouse, Bo (Penpak Sirikul), way back soured into resentment.
Tan contrasts Thana’s glossy trendy dwelling with the dusty facet roads and ragged riverbanks of the countryside, with Pop Aye bridging the 2 worlds like a three-ton manifestation of all of his unfulfilled longings and regrets. It’s stated that elephants have distinct personalities, and Bong’s is heat and charismatic, drawing consideration so simply that you just’d swear a highlight was shining on him in sure scenes. Tan’s eye for element additionally provides the movie a sure emotional resonance, the temper set by little particulars like Thana’s embroidered handkerchief floating in a muddy river or hair dye operating down Bo’s face after an upsetting telephone name.
However whereas the world-building and tone are each emotionally resonant and delicately constructed, and the cinematography bathed in beautiful pinks and greens, the arc of the movie follows a well-trod, typical self-discovery narrative. Whereas out on the highway, Thana meets and interacts with folks like sentimental drifter Dee (Chaiwat Khumdee) and lonely transgender girl Jenni (Yukontorn Sukkijja), all of whom have some kind of lesson to impart about appreciating the little issues and dwelling life to its fullest. When Thana and Pop Aye lastly attain the house of Thana’s uncle Peak (Narong Pongpab), a spot Thana has totally mythologized in his many years away within the massive metropolis, the story takes an fascinating flip, however ultimately comes round to a different greeting card sentiment. In that manner, Pop Aye is an ordinary, if well-made, indie highway journey dramedy. However, you realize, with an elephant.