“Heart Attack” – 2016 New York Asian Film Festival Review


For every 10 D-level horror movies released in Thailand, there’s a charmingly real indie flick to rightfully steer the ship of the national film industry.  Unsurprisingly, those honors once again go to filmmaker/author/artist Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, who has put together a bitingly observational script on the dangers of depending on telecommuting, technology and social media for self-validation in “Heart Attack” (ฟรีแลนซ์..ห้ามป่วย ห้ามพัก ห้ามรักหมอ) (also known as “Freelance”).

Featuring a wry sense of humor and matter-of-fact deadpan dialogue similar to Thamrongrattanarit’s 2013 film festival hit “Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy,” “Heart Attack” quickly introduces the viewer to Yoon (Sunny Suwanmethanon), a freelance graphic artist whose self-worth is based on how little sleep and how many jobs he amasses.  Calling him a graphic artist would be a stretch, considering that his work mainly consists of retouching rear ends and boobs in photos, but there’s a definite pecking order – a younger competitor even looks up to him as an idol – making Yoon’s workaholic ways all the more comical considering how low he is ranked in it.  One memorable scene sees Yoon torn between attending the funeral of an acquaintance’s father and finishing a photo editing job for a client.  (He actually attempts both at the same time, even asking a monk for his wifi password.)

Yoon’s body then rebels against his 7-Eleven convenience store food fueled existence, breaking out into a rash that will take a lot more than a software program to correct.  He manages to drag himself to a dermatology clinic despite his reluctance to use a hard-earned paycheck on health concerns, leading him to Doctor Imm (the model-turned-actress Mai Davika Hoorne).  Yoon treats his doctor appointments as incredibly awkward one-sided dates, whereas Imm tries not to roll her eyes at his shut-in ways while subtly expressing fascination at how much work defines his self-worth; after all, as a dermatologist she cannot work from home even if she wanted to.  “Heart Attack” then shifts into an amusing tug-of-war battle between Yoon’s emotions and livelihood, in which both opponents appear to be losing.  Funny, cringe-inducing and ultimately heartwarming, “Heart Attack” is an unconventional romantic comedy that doesn’t answer all of life’s questions, nor does it feel the need to.

“Heart Attack” screens at the 2016 New York Asian Film Festival on Sun., July 3, at 6:30 p.m.