MQFF- Insects in the Backyard

25 Mar

Banned in its native Thailand, Insects in the Backyard (2010) looks at the dysfunctional relationship between Tanya (played by the writer and director Thanwarin Sukhaphisit) and her teenage charges- Jenny and Johnny. A melancholic study into the three characters lives, the film chronicles the descent of their barely-there family.
Jenny (Suchada Rojmanothum) is seventeen and has a habit of falling obsessively in love with boys she has been dating only a few days and then not understanding when they suddenly disappear, driven away from her obsessive need of knowing where they are. Fifteen year old Johnny (Nonpavit Dansriboon) has dreams of killing Tanya, and plays computer games whilst talking about girls with his even more socially awkward best friend Man. And then there is Tanya. Tanya is in her mid-thirties, an alcoholic, a transvestite, a chain-smoker, lives her life inspired by Classical Hollywood actresses (whose many portraits adorn her walls), writes cliché romance novels, and is completely alienated from Jenny and Johnny.

As a form of teenage rebellion -or just as something to do because neither seems to go to school- both Jenny and Johnny, without the other knowing, become prostitutes. Jenny because her latest boyfriend is, and Johnny because, well, it is never really explained why Johnny has become an underage rent boy but his apathy and disaffected attitude don’t seem to matter to his mainly male clients.

From what I could infer, Tanya is actually the children’s father who, after the death of their mother, assumed the ‘mother role’- both physically and mentally- he thought they needed. It is unclear though, as are many elements of the film. The scene where Tanya is attacked by male youths in the neighbourhood was awkwardly shot, making the attack much harder for the audience to process, especially since it is unsure if it is real or imagined, much like the rape fantasy that soon follows. There are numerous cut away shots and unnecessary scenes, and this, coupled with the slow pace of the film, make the 91 minute feature seem much longer. Though there are some funny moments, mostly centred on Tanya and her obsession with becoming the ideal Western housewife.

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