'The Judgment'

Adapted from an award-winning novel by Chart Kobjitti, producer-turned-director Pantham Thongsang's The Judgment harks back to a more modest time in Thai cinema—the 1980s—when fewer than a dozen local films were released each year, and none dreamed of competition slots at Cannes. A deeply moral parable about a Buddhist novitiate named Fak (Pitisak Yaowananont) who returns home to find his aging father remarried to a sexed-up, much younger, and apparently brain-damaged woman named Somsong (Bongkot Kongmalai), The Judgment derives its title from the trial-by-gossip held by the neighbors when Fak's father suddenly dies, leaving the son and his screwy stepmother in a suspiciously intimate state of cohabitation. With a soundtrack of infectious golden oldies and Bongkot's palpitation-inducing incarnation of the erotically addled Somsong, Thongsang's film is likable enough for a while, though it grows increasingly brutalizing as the neighbors' venal verdict is rendered. Even if it recalls still another aspect of '80s Thai cinema by remaining almost entirely free of the aesthetic ambitions of Last Life in the Universe or Blissfully Yours, the condemnation of the Thai propensity for throwing stones from glass houses remains timely at home. For international audiences accustomed to the separation of cinema and sermonizing, it's likely to mean little or nothing at all.

 
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