Sunday, November 27, 2016

Till We Meet Again

Till We Meet Again, an independent film from 2015, written by its star Johan 'John' Matton and directed by Bank Tangjaitrong, has been playing film festivals and picking up awards as Best Film. As I read the description, I thought, "Oh no, not another film about young lovers with relationship difficulties! After five years of living together, this couple have reached the point where they must explore options. They need to find themselves." This type of story has been done to death, so what makes this film so special?

What stands out in a vital way in Till We Meet Again is its bicultural slant. It takes place in New York and in Thailand. Matton has a love of travel and wonderfully incorporates his feelings into this story of how culture may affect you in a positive way. He has one character express it ever so clearly, "New York is a rat race. You are who everyone else wants you to be. (Thailand) realigns you with who you really are".

The fast pace of New York city living can take its toll on anyone and so it does on artist Joanna (Linnea Larsdotter) and painfully shy writer Erik (John Matton), who become trapped, so to speak. He has come to rely on her for almost everything; she wants him to open up and talk. The bottom line? They need a change of scene, and since Joanna has a love of the Asian culture, Erik purchases two plane tickets to Thailand. When the date approaches, he is taking some scuba lessons and Joanna insists that he stay behind and finish. She will go to Thailand alone and he can join her in a few days. The problem is she has agreed to visit her old friend David (Emrhys Cooper) and doesn't realize that his new girlfriend has already departed for New York. Erik agrees to let her go, but panics at the thought of her with another man. She assures him it's nothing, but, of course, David has other plans for Joanna.

When Erik arrives, he is supposed to meet them at the night market, a big open flea market in Bangkok. They miss each other, but not without David spotting Erik with a girl - one he has just met accidentally - and Erik later seeing Joanna seemingly romantic with David. Erik thinks the worst, does not call after her and proceeds to go off with Miranda (Astrea Campbell-Cobb). Miranda introduces Erik to her band of hippie-like friends and he is offered cheap lodging. As it turns out Joanna and Erik never meet up...until much later.

Matton has nicely fashioned two separate journeys through the beautifully scenic Thailand, Joanna learns some valuable lessons about relationships through David; Erik has acquired newfound friendship on his travels and a new attraction with Miranda, something he has desperately needed for a long, long time. Director Tangjaitrong tells the tale at a brisk yet finely tuned pace, allowing all the actors to express their emotions believably. He also provides past glimpses of Joanna and Erik in New York via flashbacks, allowing us to clearly understand where their problems began.

The acting is superb from all concerned. Larsdotter is palpably real and engaging, an actress to keep your eye on. Matton is equally astounding. He allows us to see Erik change little by little in unexpected ways. Cooper does some of his finest work onscreen, as he plays David with a remarkable edge. He appears nice and caring at first, but eventually lets out his disdain for the natives and struts a sense of entitlement that just won't quit, particularly with Joanna. His villainous scenes are intensely dramatic, yet played with modulation and restraint. Campbell-Cobb is another actress to watch. She instantly rivets with Miranda's flirty, kooky behavior.

Director Tangjaitrong encourages the viewer to make his own choices. For whatever reason, you may favor Erik's side to the story or Joanna's. I chose Erik's, as I could relate well to his shyness and his need for new friends and experiences. Thailand's lush scenery provides just the right background for change and much praise must go to cinematographer Lance Kuhns. Don't miss Till We Meet Again, now in select theatres!
5/5 stars

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