Last year, I was grumbling to a friend of mine about how there aren’t enough queer shows. She suggested that I watch I Told Sunset About You, which she had recently watched. The show’s title is enough to make anyone curious. It made me want to watch the show instantly and I have never regretted binge-watching a show this fast before. It tugged at my heartstrings during its five-plus hour run time. I was so overcome with emotion, I could barely get myself to watch anything else. It made me check flight tickets to Phuket and when my bank balance allows it, I will move there in a heartbeat.
The show falls under the “boys’ love” genre and before this show, I had no idea that this genre even existed. The 2020 show focuses on two adolescent boys who are going through growing pains amidst exam pressures and increasing sexual tension. Teh and Oh-aew are childhood friends, however, they fall out over playing the lead role in a school play. They end their friendship then and there. A few years later, they meet again in a Chinese language class. The show progresses with the characters going through different stages of puberty and overcoming adolescent emotions. The two characters are continually discovering themselves through their interactions with friends and everyone around them.
The cinematography of this show is masterfully crafted. Every frame needs to be preserved for how beautifully it has been shot. It has been planned and executed with utmost care. It often positions the two characters in a way that makes them seem isolated from everyone else. You can feel the emotions they are going through and the vulnerability of the situation they are in. In the scene where Oh-aew lets Teh know how he feels about him, they are both laying in a hammock. We only see the two of them positioned in the center of the frame allowing us to witness both Oh-aew’s certainty and Teh’s doubt. Teh is a teenage boy who isn’t just closeted to the world, but also to himself. You can feel his inner conflict and the fact that he can’t ignore how moved he is by Oh-aew’s confession.
There is another brilliant scene where Teh and Oh-aew are teasing each other, walking close to one another and then away. It is like a choreographed dance they play with the camera.
Thai and Chinese culture is so intricately stitched into the show with a red and gold theme running throughout the series. It blends in perfectly with Phuket as its backdrop and a soundtrack that honours the mix of both cultures.
The writers do a great job exploring young relationships. In our pre-pubescent years, we are constantly confused by the emotions we are experiencing. Heartbreak often feels like the end of the world, especially if it is happening for the first time. It takes us on a journey with Teh and his self-discovery. By the end of the show, you either relate to Teh wholeheartedly or you are reminded of someone who was just like this confused, competitive teenager.
The show is an emotional rollercoaster. I wish I was as comfortable in my sexuality the way Oh-aew was, and I knew several people who were. However, I related to Teh to a point that I felt at times that the writers had taken bits from my life. In the scene where Teh and Hoon (Teh’s brother) have a conversation, I bawled my eyes out. That is all we ever need. Acceptance. To be told that it is okay to identify with whatever we want and to love whoever. To be hugged and loved regardless, because our sexuality doesn’t define who we are as people.
The scene where Oh-aew and Teh kiss underwater stuck with me the most; it is especially symbolic since they kiss underwater, where nobody can see them. Once they come out of the water, Teh acts as though nothing happened. He is comfortable expressing himself away from the world, as long as they cannot be seen. However, Oh-aew is someone who is comfortable with himself and doesn’t mind being openly gay.
There is a ‘making-of’ documentary of this series where you can see the lengths the director went to make this real. He planned every scene to a T to make sure this is a couple you not only root for but feel seen with.
The two actors knew each other personally before, and the chemistry certainly comes through seamlessly with how comfortable they are with one another. In some scenes where they are semi-dancing, semi-teasing one another, their movements seem almost too natural, a reflection of how well they know each other. In the making of the documentary, the director mentions how a lot of scenes were improvised.
The show has given these two actors the biggest breaks in their careers. They have gone on to get product gigs, music launches, and multiple awards in Thailand. They are popularly known as ‘BKPP’ where they played a supporting role in a show called ‘Love Ambulance’.
In my previous article, I listed out issues that this genre represents, but I want to talk about how this show goes against every cliche out there. Teh feels guilty for falling out of love with his girlfriend and repents for what he does. Neither of them forces themselves onto each other but instead, they take time to understand how the other is feeling at that moment. It also emphasises the beautiful facets of falling in love. It explores the vulnerability we feel when we are with our partners because expressing ourselves can be quite scary.
The story is in no way completely different from what we have seen before, but instead, it is a story we are all too familiar with. It is the way it has been crafted that makes it stand out.