Recounting a simple story structured in a complex subtext, Uncle Boonmee… is modestly engaging and visually beautiful. Set in Thailand, the work often resembles a painter’s canvas, the colours added with much thought and the frames lit ethereally.
Uncle Boonmee’s (Thanapat Salsaymar)liver is failing, and he wishes to spend his last days in the Thai countryside, surrounded by his family. To his enormous surprise, his dead wife’s ghost (Natthakarn Aphaiwonk) and his long lost son return to be by his bedside. The son looks like an ape, having muted into one after a relationship with the animal. Boonmee begins to recall his past lives, and finally treks along a jungle with his family to a mysterious cave, where he was born for the first time. This is where he would like his present life to end.
The helmer, whose previous films include Syndrome and a Century and Tropical Malady, never lets us know what exactly Boonmee’s earlier lives were. Was he a buffalo that escapes from a farm or a catfish or a fly? I suppose it is for the viewer to let his or her imagination wander.
Uncle Boonmee… is elegant and stunning to look at in places, particularly during the jungle trek that the man takes. Strictly arthouse, this is not a work for the casual viewer. But many of the images would stay on, for, so riveting were they.