‘Happy Old Year’ Is a Soul-Stirring Portrayal of the Realities of Our Lives and Relationships
A woman wants to reorganize her house and convert it into a home office. She will throw away anything that has been lying around unused. However, she faces a great challenge when she comes across some items that belonged to her ex-boyfriend.
Director: Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit
Cast: Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Sunny Suwanmethanon, Thirawat Ngosawang
Runtime: 115 minutes
Happy Old Year ฮาวทูทิ้ง..ทิ้งอย่างไรไม่ให้เหลือเธอ presents us an authentic and blunt view into human relationships that isn’t often explored in the fictional world of cinema. Director Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit shows us that even if we make every effort to grow and become a better person, a happy ending isn’t certain.
The film follows an aspiring interior designer, Jean (Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying), as she attempts to declutter her home à la Marie Kondo. She’s blunt and unfeeling as she throws out almost everything in her house, disregarding what they used to mean for her and for others.
To be honest, I initially found her unlikeable in this sense. She’s motivated only by her wants, and bosses people around to agree with her. I loved her best friend’s blunt reproach: “Learn to have some compassion, will you?” But as the film progresses, it becomes apparent that it’s deliberate characterisation on Thamrongrattanarit’s part to have an authentically flawed protagonist.
Marie Kondo’s principle is simple: if the items don’t spark joy, throw them out. This is a well-meaning enough idea, but it can be cold-hearted and selfish as we see in Jean. What about things that spark emotion other than joy? What if they spark melancholy, or longing? It may not just be about what these items mean to you, but what they mean to others also matter. Jean learns this lesson the hard way.
Thamrongrattanarit refutes the idea of “out of sight, out of mind”, as Jean is shadowed by her past and the guilt she carries. When she meets her ex-boyfriend Aim (Sunny Suwanmethanont) after three years to apologise, her good intentions are revealed to still be unknowingly motivated by the self-serving need to relieve her guilt.
Our own need to exonerate ourselves of guilt, regardless of the consequences for the other person, is ultimately still selfish.In Jean’s case, her apology to Aim wasn’t for his own closure, but for hers.
Happy Old Year hits all the emotional beats with great detail. We go through an emotional rollercoaster throughout, wanting to root for Jean but also being frustrated with her ways. The characters are also well-developed, even the side characters, which leaves you with an almost personal involvement in the film.
Thamrongrattanarit amps up the poignancy of his story with thoughtful technical choices. The music in Happy Old Year is tender and fitting of the emotional journey that the characters go through. There are some parts in the middle where he makes peculiar sound design decisions, but it’s easily forgotten amidst the emotional intensity of the story. The colouring and cinematography are perfectly fitting of the film’s tone too. There’s a lot of continuous shots, which I found to be almost symbolic of how difficult it is to let go.
I got emotional several times in this film, and even felt personally attacked by the director’s blunt messaging that we’re always selfish to a certain extent even if we think we’re doing the right thing. And I think that’s precisely the point of having such an unlikeable character as the protagonist. We’re given a reflection of ourselves, flawed and sometimes self-centred.
The film’s ending leaves you with an indescribable feeling. It’s a bittersweet revelation that not everyone can truly have a happy ending, even if we pretend that that’s the case. Happy Old Year is as heartbreaking as it is refreshing. Thamrongrattanarit takes off our rose-tinted glasses that we tend to expect in the world of fiction. Instead, he gives us a beautiful look into the unpleasant realities of life, where we often just live with our own hurt.
Happy Old Year is now available for streaming on Netflix.
Check out the trailer below: