When someone comes up with the intriguing concept of turning a Thai teenage girl’s twitter stream into a film, then you know this is going to be an interesting task to translate to screen. This is director Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s second feature film after his debut ‘36’ from 2012. MARY IS HAPPY, MARY IS HAPPY has an experimental form due to its uniquely told narrative; Thamrongrattanarit uses 410 consecutive tweets from Mary’s real twitter account (@marylony) to create a strange layer to the film, with said tweets appearing on screen throughout.
Melancholy and angst-ridden, Mary (Patcha Poonpiriya) is a teenager on the cusp of adulthood in her final year of high school, with her main concern being the creation of a perfectly made yearbook. Her best friend Suri (Chonnikan Netjui) is there to accompany her on her daily escapades and to give wise words to life’s misgivings; the two are almost inseparable. Along the 6 months of Mary’s life converted from tweets, many weird and strange events happen: the word “surreal” will come to mind a lot while watching this film. During the first half an hour of the film we see Mary do all manner of bizarre things such as: going to Paris on her own without explanation, ordering a jellyfish online, having a tear gas fight, and buying a numerous amount of vases and placing them all over her bedroom out of boredom.
As well as her spontaneous decisions, Mary’s life becomes much more difficult when a dictatorial headmaster takes over her school when the old one dies. Perhaps the way that Mary and her schoolmates are treated at this all-girls school is to point out some of the struggles of Thai people, since the school shuts them down of original thought, they’re not allowed to complain, and even have an exam based on how well they know the headmaster. Even if not intentional, this is a clever way to communicate such a serious issue.
Mary states that she can no longer determine between fantasy and reality anymore, which is a perfect way to describe this film…
At one point towards the end of the film, Mary states that she can no longer determine between fantasy and reality anymore, which is a perfect way to describe this film – since there are scenes which are not to be taken seriously, and others which need to be. MARY IS HAPPY, MARY IS HAPPY juxtaposes the comedic and surreal with more serious and depressing events. The handheld camera gives the film an authentic feel and allows us to feel connected with Mary as we follow her life. Furthermore, the performances are solid and the rapid cuts stitch everything together, lending the film a surreal haze. However, despite all its quirks, the major downfall of this film would be the bloated run time. After a while, the novelty of the tweets dwindles, and the rate of the tweets appearing alongside speech and action are hard to keep up with, especially when trying to read English subtitles.
MARY IS HAPPY, MARY IS HAPPY is a fun and engaging film which doesn’t try to be something else; it’s distinctive in style and narrative, and a offers a curious look at what high school life might be like in Thailand. The film also has amusing intertextual references to two other well-known filmmakers: Jean-Luc Godard and Wong Kar-wai. As well as this, there are running jokes which provide many laughs and raised eyebrows, such as Mary getting a bottle smashed over her head for no reason, and her fake iPhone repeatedly blowing up in her ear. Despite the strangeness of it all, real themes and feelings are explored without the film losing its integrity. One of the most interesting aspects of the film would be uncovering the purpose of the title; it makes you think about Mary in a different way.
Absurd, random, and oddly engaging, MARY IS HAPPY, MARY IS HAPPY reflects the trials and tribulations of a teenage girl trying to find her path in life but stumbling along the way. A fresh take on the ‘coming of age’ teenage archetype and use of social media help it stand out above the sea of pretentious teenage films out there, whereas this one feels more real and true to the thoughts and actions of a young adult.