Movie Review: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)

Title: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Release Date: 25 June 2010
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Production Company: Kick the Machine


This surreal and slow moving film from Thailand focuses on Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar), a gentle farmer who is dying of a failing kidney, and feels he’s getting karma for having killed communists when he was in the army.  He’s cared for by his sister-in-law Jen (Jenjira Pongpas), his nephew Tong (Sakda Kaewbuadee), and a medical assistant Jaai (Samud Kugasang).

One night while they are dining they are visited by the ghost of Boonmee’s wide Huay (Natthakarn Aphaiwong), who died over a decade earlier.  Then they’re joined by Boonmee’s son Boonsong (Jeerasak Kulhong) who has been missing for years and turned into a anthropomorhic creature covered in fur with glowing eyes called a Monkey Ghost.  Then things get weird.

The story of Boonmee’s final days and funeral is intercut with visions of Boonmee’s past lives.  One of them involves an assignation between a princess (Wallapa Mongkolprasert) and a catfish.  Different parts of the movie are produced in different film styles although a general slowness and long periods without dialogue are common throughout.  Honestly, this movie is hard to summarize because it is more about a mood and a reflection on death, reincarnation, and memory.  You have to see it to believe it.

(By the way, this trailer makes it looks like a horror film, and while maybe some aspects are a bit eerie and unsettling, I don’t think it is scary at all).

Rating: ****