Pop Aye

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Pop Aye

Pop Aye is a road movie about a mid­dle-aged ar­chi­tect who has lost his joie de vivre, and an ele­phant he used to know. Thana (Thaneth Warakul­nukroh) can­not seem to please his wife or his co-work­ers. When he spots Pop Aye, the cir­cus an­i­mal that his fam­ily raised, walk­ing around Bangkok with a han­dler, he buys the enor­mous sad-eyed beast and stores him in his yard — un­til Bo (Pen­pak Sirikul) tells him their mar­riage is over be­cause she does not want to be his zookeeper.

Thana and Pop Aye set off for the farm where they grew up. On the trek, they meet a va­ri­ety of char­ac­ters, each of whom as­sists Thana in some way, in­clud­ing a pair of po­lice­men who take the trav­el­ers into cus­tody for a spell. At an old gas sta­tion, he meets a young man who is wait­ing to die, though he is not sick in a phys­i­cal way. He longs to see his wife again, he says. Thana is both kind­hearted and prag­matic as he sug­gests ways for the man to get what he needs. Later, two women in a karaoke bar present Thana with op­tions for his own sat­is­fac­tion, and the de­ci­sion he makes — based on what he thinks he is sup­posed to want — sheds some light on Thana’s pre­vi­ous life of quiet des­per­a­tion.

Thana’s ded­i­ca­tion to get­ting Pop Aye to the safety of the coun­try­side farm shows a man who is not as paunchy and burned out as he per­ceives him­self to be. We watch the ele­phant learn to trust him, fi­nally al­low­ing him to climb up for a ride, in­stead of Thana hav­ing to lead him around on a rope.

This small, charm­ing story has its tense dra­matic mo­ments as well as in­stances of silly com­edy, but above all it is a med­i­ta­tion on what we be­lieve we once had, and what we have lost. We ro­man­ti­cize the past, im­bu­ing places and time with mean­ing that shapes who we are, and build­ing pro­fun­dity and con­nec­tion into re­la­tion­ships that might never have ex­isted the way we thought they did. But the past has a way of com­ing back and call­ing one home. asks whether it is worth the ef­fort to rec­on­cile our nos­tal­gia with re­al­ity. The truth would shat­ter the young man wait­ing to die, but when Thana finds his, he has found enough in­ner re­solve to han­dle it with­out com­ing apart. — Jen­nifer Levin

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