Theory of Love Ep.1: “เพื่อนสนิท” (Dear Dakanda)

Though I haven’t reviewed anything in a fat while, I think that this is a series worth devoting my time to reviewing not only as a TV lover but as a movie lover, as well. I really think some of you will enjoy this drama quite a lot. Theory of Love is a Thai drama that, though I am a lover of Thai dramas in general, might be a master-class level of artistry that any film/TV lover could appreciate.

Following the lives of four third year film students, affectionately known as The Gangsters, Theory of Love tells the story of Third (played by Gun Atthaphan Phunsawat), Khai (played by Off Jumpol Adulkittiporn), Two (played by White Nawat Phumphothingam), and Bone (played by Mike Chinnarat Siriphongchawalit). The four of them are the most popular guys on campus because they’re all experts in their own area of focus and they’re handsome guys. Khai, Bone, and Two can get any girls they want whenever they want to get them with their popularity and good looks.

But Third has a secret: he’s been in love with Khai since they met the first day of university.

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Left to right: Khai, Bone, Third, Two

What makes Theory of Love so unique isn’t the (very common) ‘secretly in love with my best friend’ trope, but rather how this series approaches things. Ignoring the incredible acting, the intricate and perfect writing, and cinematography that some Hollywood films could learn a thing or two from, this series about film students presents itself in a way that every episode is titled after a famous romance movie and has Easter eggs from that movie throughout that episode.

This first episode is based on the film Dear Dakanda. I planned to review every episode and the movie it’s titled after and post them simultaneously, but I cannot find a single way to access Dear Dakanda, so this first episode will have to be one I don’t do that with. However, for both your and my information, let’s look at the summary of Dear Dakanda.

“Dear Dakanda” poses the question “What would you do when you fall in love with your best friend?”

Khaiyoi, a shy young art student, develops feelings for a classmate Dakanada. The couple become close friends, but Khaiyoi is unable to express his true feelings for her.

It’s entirely understandable why they started with Dear Dakanda to get us started in what will be a journey of ups and downs for a young man in love with his best friend.

Before getting into the actual first episode after giving an overview of what this show is about, I’ll begin by saying that Thai actors are like British actors: If you’ve seen them in one thing, you’ll see them in more. I’ve seen all but Bone in various other things, sometimes in multiple things, and I knew going in that Gun is one of the best actors I’ve ever seen on a screen. This person would already have been cast in an Oscar winning film if Hollywood looked for true talent outside of Western actors more often. And let me tell you, Third is possibly his best performance out of all the amazing ones I’ve seen.

gun1We meet Third doing something many of those reading this who follow me have done: reviewing movies. Our first interaction with him is watching Third record movie reviews for romance movies, including Dear Dakanda, for his vlog, which is shown to be very popular, but made even more so by the handsome man hanging around in the background of each video: Khai.

For the first episode, the intro scene is very long (like 10 minutes) before the title sequence because Third is setting up the entire story for us: he met Khai first day of khai1university when they were doing an activity where they wore characters from famous movies on headbands and the new students have to find the matching character from that same movie, and when he looked into Khai’s eyes, he knew. As we learn about who Khai is as a person through Third listing his flaws, we learn he’s not the type of guy that Third has any chance of getting to love him back.

“Even though Khai has countless flaws, those flaws can’t compare to this one: He makes me fall in love.”

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The use of lighting and cinematography in this series is so perfect at showing us the dichotomy of being in love with someone and having those warm, fuzzy feelings as a contrast to his acting. You can see the anguish in his eyes as he looks at the love of his life who can never know how much he loves him. It’s so smart and so effective in giving us this dream world feeling while the actor reminds us it’s just that, a dream world.

And then we have the INCREDIBLE intro-music for this series. This drama has one of the best OSTs I’ve ever heard, but this introduction fully embodies the spirit and feeling of this drama in that it is musically hopeful yet sorrowful? It’s almost nostalgic or wistful feeling where you know there is pain but there’s that lingering hope of ‘just maybe’. The music is just perfect for what we know is going to be a long, painful road ahead of us.

That said, it isn’t all doom and gloom. There’s a lot of comedy that doesn’t feel out of place, such as Third’s ‘cry fully clothed in the shower’ scenes that we get in this first episode. There are plenty of comedic moments and light-hearted friendship themes that it isn’t all drama and depression. I really enjoy that they find a perfect balance in this first episode to not put people off from continuing but rather bring a balance so that it’s not so heartbreaking you can’t take continuing with it.

In this first episode, we get a good sense of how badly Khai takes advantage of Third’s friendship, and it almost makes you want to hate him at points, but then he turns around and does something so kind and loving that you remember that, though he’s kind of a jerk, Khai loves Third so much, even if it’s just as his best friend. That’s the best part about Third’s character: You can’t find him pathetic, because for all the bad shit Khai does to him (not too extreme, but the little things build up), he turns it around and is a loyal, faithful friend who cares for Third too much for Third to give up on him just because he asks so much of him and doesn’t return the favors often.

Last thing I want to touch on is how Third’s first person narration of his internal thoughts is so perfect. I normally hate that sort of thing, but for once, it’s absolutely the best thing they could have done with this show.

“I love him, but it means nothing to him.”

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They could have honestly let this entire show be carried on Gun’s acting alone, but they don’t. They put so much thought into every detail, into the narration, into the cinematography, into the writing of these utterly perfect lines, and even into making each character as perfectly flawed as possible but not irredeemable (at least in this first episode), and it all adds up to be one of the best romance dramas I’ve ever watched.

I absolutely cannot wait to get onto the next episode and review it as well, and I really hope some of you give this series a shot after reading this. This series can be accessed for free and with subtitles usually within 3 days of the newest episode going up on GMMTV’s official YouTube. Please watch the official YouTube to appreciate this wonderful drama and feel free to reach out to me at my Twitter to talk about it when you do!

(Also if anybody can get me a link to Dear Dakanda I absolutely welcome the help!)

 

Author: J. Chelsea Williford

Movie addict, reader, writer, pop culture lover.

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