Reviews Found on this page (Click on the title to navigate):
1. The Eclipse: An initial impression
2. 180 Degree Longitude Passes Through US: An initial impression
4. Never Let Me Go: An initial impression
A First Impression
There is nothing more powerful than a story that challenges the norm. Some of the best books, dramas, and films have characters rising against unjust authority, breaking free of life’s uncompromising views. This empowering fight for equality is precisely the foundation set for the Thai BL series The Eclipse, starring actors First Kanaphan and Khaotung Thanawat.
And it does not disappoint.
While I have not read the novel this series is inspired by, I’m invested in the story presented by the screenwriters, director, and actors onscreen. GMMTV has recently stepped up its game with dramas that touch as deeply on societal issues as they do romance.
The Eclipse does not hold back, diving immediately into the struggle for equality while building on the electric chemistry between the characters as they struggle with themselves and each other.
Although The Eclipse is essentially a school drama that takes place inside an elite all-boys school under a strict code of conduct, the story figuratively reaches beyond the walls of Suppalo. Schools are perfect examples of how a society is run, often mimicking the ideals and expectations of the adults who run it, the town it’s located in, and the parents who endorse it. So, while it might seem a stretch to some to call a school drama inspiring and transformative, it is our youth who step into the defining roles that will shape our future.
The school setting isn’t new to Thai BL, but the intensity brought to the screen in The Eclipse, and the type of story it’s presenting is.
While much of the focus is on the burgeoning and electric chemistry growing between the lead and secondary couple, the story built around them is fanning the flames. And not just because of the love/hate trope. Watching these characters catch deep feelings for each other while attempting to uphold rules they didn’t question before makes the tension between them much more insane. It also speaks a lot about people’s awed bewilderment when confronted with hard societal truths they can’t ignore.
The acting is impressive. As Akk, First Kanaphan does a fantastic job of upholding the old school ideals Akk believes in while being challenged by the new rebellious student, Ayan (Khaotung Thanawat). Ayan is on a mission to discover the truth behind his uncle’s suicide, in which he believes Suppalo plays a part.
The dynamic between Akk and Ayan is passionately arresting. Despite their differences and Ayan’s secrets, there’s evident respect for each other mirrored in their gazes. Although their bantering and Ayan’s flirtation are fun to watch, I’ve found myself most drawn to the subtle admiration growing between them. Part of growing as a society is learning from each other. It’s about seeing the world from different perspectives. It’s about breaking through the barriers that separate us. And sometimes, that middle ground is found through fighting, something Akk and Ayan are no strangers to.
The same goes for the secondary couple in The Eclipse. As Akk and Ayan struggle with their developing feelings while on opposing sides of justice, Khan (Neo Trai) and Thua (Louis Thanawin) also struggle. Only their conflict deals with the growing feelings between Thua, who has accepted his sexuality and is being bullied for it, and his friend, Khan, who is fighting his same-sex attraction towards Thua while also protecting Thua.
Although it’s only two episodes in, I’m impressed with The Eclipse. It feels like the modern-day Romeo and Juliet the teacher discusses on Valentine’s Day in Episode 2, dividing the characters between the prefectors selected to uphold the school’s rules and the students rebelling against the system they believe is stripping away their identities. And like Romeo and Juliet, The Eclipse has a curse. While in Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio damns the Montagues and Capulets by crying out “A Plague on both your houses” as he perishes, the Suppalo school is rumored to be cursed whenever a student acts out. But let’s hope the tragedy that befalls the star-crossed lovers in Romeo and Juliet doesn’t befall our couples in The Eclipse.
This brings me to the glimmer of hope in the story.
While solar eclipses often warned of doom in the past, they are now often seen as a time of change and new beginnings, and not necessarily bad ones.
I hope all the characters in The Eclipse discover their truths, reveal their secrets, and find justice. Let’s watch to find out. Viewers can find it on the GMMTV YouTube channel here.
A First Impression
A character-driven stage play on camera.
That’s precisely what the Thai BL 180 Degree Longitude Passes Through Us is. It’s a stage play on camera, and it’s a prime example that television doesn’t require a lot of bells and whistles to be larger than life. It simply requires a touch of humanity. Grief, pain, and love are universal.
Starring actors Nike Nitidon (Inthawut aka “In”), Pond Ponlawit (Wang), and Mam Kathaleeya (Sasiwimol aka “Mol”), 180 Degree Longitude tells the complicated story of the relationship between a mother and her son, their shared unresolved grief over the death of Wang’s father, and the growing first love between Wang and his father’s old friend, In.
There are a lot of things I could say about the first two episodes of 180 Degree Longitude, but the main reason I fell in love with it is that it tells the story of three people who have lost their direction, people whose perspectives of themselves and each other don’t quite match what the other assumes.
And isn’t that exactly what life is?
The world is a globe of assumptions full of humans who believe they know the people in their lives when the only thing we know about each other is the surface we see. Even though this drama primarily focuses on three people, it’s universally felt. There’s a little Wang, Mol, and In in all of us.
180 Degree Longitude opens with Wang holding a palm-sized glass globe, the wind in his hair, and his voiceover narration detailing his dreams and his interesting relationship with his mother. There’s nothing grand about this beginning, but there is something grand about how the production chose to keep this story to a mainly three-person cast tied together by fate. There’s something grand about how the production decided to focus on Wang’s, Mol’s, and In’s emotions rather than extravagant camera angles and excessive drone shots. Instead, 180 Degree Longitude is intimately filmed, centering itself around our three main characters, their words and expressions, and their interactions with each other. It focuses on the actors, and actors Nike, Pond, and Mam shoulder the burden of this beautifully.
180 Degree Longitude makes the distance and space between these characters the center of attention. It’s evident that there are a lot of untold stories, secrets, and unsaid words between Wang, Mol, and In, and that to resolve the grief they all feel, they’ll need to discover that place between them. They’ll need to close the distance they’ve created to separate themselves from their pain and, ultimately, each other.
I hold my breath each time the characters face each other, particularly Wang and In. While much of this has to do with the tension and chemistry between the male leads, I’m more impressed by how much stronger their unsaid words and secrets make the chemistry. In’s past with Wang’s father is unclear, although I strongly sense that it was romantic based on the emotional scene between Wang and Mol in Episode 2, making an already intense story much more intense. In’s quiet, compromising personality makes it harder to see beyond the wall he’s built around himself. Mol and Wang’s passionate and explosive personalities are more forthcoming, each wearing their emotions on their sleeves while hiding their thoughts inside alcohol and a glass globe. Mol drinks her grief and guilt away. Wang dreams big, wanting to walk the world in the footsteps of the father he admired but knew too little about.
Inthawut is the key. He’s the introverted man in hiding who holds the truth both Mol and Wang need to hear but are afraid to know. Inthawut is the key to changing all their perspectives while potentially being the man that will either tear them all apart or rebuild them in a new unassuming way.
Watching In, Wang, and Mol feels like standing at the center of Wang’s glass globe, waiting for it to crack. When it shatters, where will each piece end up? Can it be put back together?
Can the lines drawn between the characters become the lines that bring them to each other?
I like that 180 Degree Longitude has a globe and the international date line (180 degrees longitude) as its imagery. Wang is essentially holding the world in his hands, a world he dreams of seeing, two poles–the north and south–he hopes to make it to. He’s holding a world he doesn’t necessarily feel a part of. He’s holding a world his mother made him the center of. He’s holding a world he doesn’t fully understand. He’s holding a world he wants to change.
He’s holding the world the same way we all do in an attempt to understand and be a part of it. Sometimes the world crashes down around us. Sometimes it shakes us up. Sometimes it awes us with its beauty, while at other times, it disgusts us with its ugliness.
I’m a massive fan of symbolic, character-driven stories. 180 Degree Longitude is delivering that for me with actors who are clearly passionate about telling this story while promising a complicated, tense romance that will shake up the world Wang holds. And us with it.
For an intimately-filmed drama that leaves an impression, check out 180 Degrees Longitude Passes Through Us on Gagaoolala. I have a feeling this drama will only continue getting stronger.
Check out the official music video for the drama below.
180 Degree Longitude Passes Through Us
My Final Thoughts
The Thai drama 180 Degree Longitude Passes Through Us has ended, and it has taken my heart with it. When a series strikes a chord within me, I am very vocal about it, writing multiple pieces hoping others will take the time to discover the magic. 180 Degree Longitude is one of those series, but for the final review, I will simply focus on the people in it, the connection between them, and why these connections touched me.
180 Degree Longitude feels revolutionary. It makes us think about the control we live under, whether in our personal lives or politically. It makes us think about the world and our parts in it. It opens hearts, minds, and eyes, allowing viewers into a story about three people and their grief while also asking us to question life and love. From beginning to end, 180 Degree Longitude offered viewers nuanced dialogue full of double meaning and abstract symbolic pieces meant to be interpreted differently by everyone who consumes it. Like the journey Wang takes to learn more about his father and himself, we are all on a journey to discover who we are and about the people around us.
A line and a bridge are essential symbolic motifs used in the drama. Real or imagined lines divide the world and the people in it by geography, emotions, and our personal beliefs. Wang, Sasiwimol, and Inthawut represent these lines. They represent the divide between generations, politics, and thought. It takes a lot to bridge the gaps between all of that.
Wang (actor Pond Ponlawit) is youth and revolution, his naïve innocence and ideological approach to the world mirroring what many youths today feel and think. From the child to the adolescent, the world is a massive, awe-inspiring place full of adventure, a world full of things that can be overcome and changed. The young are curious because they’re searching for answers, whether it’s questions about themselves, the future, or life in general, and they are open to understanding things in a way adults may not be. That understanding gives them an unbiased knowledge that we should heed rather than ignore. The young get hurt, but they learn and grow from that hurt. But first, they have to be willing to be hurt.
Inthawut (actor Nike Nitidon) is a flawed and scarred adult full of fear and regret, making him the most relatable, yet equally frustrating, character to those who have been through trauma. He chose to run away from the world, living isolated from society inside a seemingly ideal utopia he thinks will keep him safe. He lives inside his thoughts and the books he learns from and hides behind. He’s wise and learned, but he’s closed himself off from the adventures that allow people to learn as much from each other as we do from the books we study. There’s a young Inthawut inside of him he still relates to, one that allows him to open up to the youthful understanding Wang offers while his scars, experiences, and fear also hold him back. He’s someone who knows that change needs to happen, but resists it because he’s afraid of losing the safety he thinks he’s found and afraid to hurt those he loves. It’s hard to accept yourself when you carry the weight and shame of feeling like your choices have cost other people theirs.
Sasiwimol “Mol” (actress Kathaleeya Mam) is a conservative but melodramatic adult that represents society/government as much as she represents herself. She’s proud, vain, and selfish. She’s often the center of attention and thrives off the affection and time people invest in her. While there’s a lot about Mol that infuriates and drives viewers away, this is precisely the role she’s meant to play. But one fact remains, she does truly love her son. However, she doesn’t own him.
The characters’ differences, the lines that separate them, ultimately affect how they interact with each other, especially Wang and Mol, and what they teach each other. Although Mol tries to emotionally force Wang to stay by her side, it has the opposite effect. Her secrecy, lies, and prejudiced views make Wang bolder, encouraging him to discover life and the truths she’s hidden from him. Like the globe he carries, he’s trying to find the world and the realities his father knew while also trying to find himself. In the process, he stumbles on Inthawut, a man who learns as much from Wang as Wang learns from him. Wang sees beneath people, encouraging Inthawut to step beyond the safety of his home. And while this seems much more significant than any lesson Inthawut could teach Wang, what Inthawut teaches Wang is just as important. Inthawut encourages Wang to follow his heart, but he also helps teach Wang that with love comes responsibility. And that responsibility includes Sasiwimol. Mol may be the least relatable character in 180 Degree Longitude because, in truth, our governments and our society are often the hardest things to relate to, but they are also the source of who we are. It’s our love for them that makes us want to transform them. There are good and bad things about Mol, things that are easy to pity and things we want to pull away from.
In retrospect, 180 Degree Longitude Passes Through Us taught me as much as it made me feel. From the breakable glass world Wang carries to the abstract paintings and books to the bridge Wang completes, 180 Degree Longitude symbolically bridged a gap and blurred the lines, revealing that life may be something we constantly question, but that the adventure we take while questioning it can teach us just as much about ourselves and each other as it does about life. To do so, we must step away from the fear inside us while often stepping away from the things we love (the way Wang does with Mol and later Inthawut) to see the truth more clearly.
Which brings me to Inthawut. I’ve written previously that I relate to him because, like him, I needed time to process who I am and the trauma I’d been through in order to step over the bridge standing between me and accepting who I am. Wang and Mol appeared in his life out of nowhere, making him face the past and himself. In only a few days, he endured being called both disgusting and a coward. In some ways, he is the coward Wang says he is, but he isn’t the disgusting person he gets accused of being. I’ve heard those words, and there’s nothing that hurts worse. The sad reality is that there will always be people who never find it in themselves to accept who they are. And if they do, it may be a silent thing no one else hears. I may be an activist now, but there was a time when I was that person in the middle, stuck between compromise and desire.
Wang returns to his mother not to give her what she wants but because he realizes that no matter how far he goes, there will always be people like his mother. He realizes that when people like Inthawut find it in themselves to change, if they ever do and if they ever can, they bring enough power and experience to make big changes. That’s the gift Wang gives Inthawut. The gift Inthawut gives Wang is understanding and trust in himself. It’s Inthawut’s lack of trust in himself that teaches Wang. Love is a strange thing.
I first started my writing career in poetry and songwriting before taking a job in journalism and later delving into fiction. I was thirteen-years-old when my first poem was published and submitted by a teacher at school. I couldn’t tell you what book it was published in anymore, but I still remember it vividly word for word:
Ludicrous is he, The tyrant that rules the past, you see. Smug is she, The ruler of now-a-day, forever to be. Enchanting will be the child, Future's eaves hanging from her hair so wild. And though we know them not by name, We know their anger, their fire, their flame. We walk for miles so as not to be heard Their obscure and haunting chanted words. Music is played not by talent but by ear. As is this legend of a day, week, month, and year. I looked into the eyes of the world, and what did I see? I saw the eyes of the world looking back at me. ~Copyright ©️ 2022, R.K. Ryals~
The above poem is one of the few poems I’ve written that I still have memorized despite the amount of time that has passed. Much of it has to do with being thirteen and ready to face my past while finding my future. Much of it has to do with the frustration I felt over my father’s abuse because of his conservative views and later abandonment. At thirteen, I was Wang. Many years later, I became Inthawut, losing myself in writing, books, and my introverted nature. A few years later, after losing many of my family members, including my parents, to death, I found myself again and returned to being Wang, and my goals changed, as did my writing. The Inthawut the series ends with is still looking for that peace, but Wang shows him the path he can walk if he chooses and builds him the bridge to walk over when he’s ready if he ever finds it in himself to do so. It seems like Inthawut may never choose a side, that fear and cowardice may keep him isolated, but I’m proof that isn’t so. It was harder for me to cross the bridge, every step I took was riddled with fear, self-loathing, and regrets, but when my feet touched the other side, I found power.
As much as Wang, Mol, and Inthawut represent politics and generations, they also represent time. There may be a clear divide between the past, present, and future, but the lines can blur, allowing us to learn from the past while challenging the present in order to fight for the future we want.
By the end of 180 Degree Longitude, the lines both blur and remain stalwart. The characters have developed a sense of responsibility toward each other even if it seems they remain firmly where they began. Wang, for one, has let go of the past and has learned to break free of the narrow-minded thoughts and ideas inside the world of secrets, lies, and intolerance he lives in. Goodbyes are bittersweet, but they are a way of letting go and moving forward.
There are a lot of tears inside 180 Degree Longitude, from both the viewers and the characters, and I feel like the tears are just as symbolic as everything else in this series. Not only are tears a way for the body to release emotion, but we don’t often know the reason why we’re crying. Life is about discovering the reason. Tears, while often associated with sadness, are also about realizing truth and accepting it.
Written and directed by Punnasak Sukee, 180 Degree Longitude Passes Through Us is a series that relates to every generation. As viewers, we are asked to survive the emotional journey Wang, Mol, and Inthawut take us on before setting us on a path towards starting on our own. And that’s an incredible feat for a drama.
As the lines that scrolled across the screen during the end credits revealed,
To you who call yourself a parent, you can only give birth to them but you don’t own them. To you who are still young, you have to bleed first before you learn. To you who call themselves wise, don’t let your cowardice get the better of you. Pick a side or throw away what you believe in.”180 Degree Longitude Passes Through Us
The true line, the most important line, is inside ourselves. It’s a line that no matter what age we are, where we come from, and who we are, we have to face within ourselves. We have to decide how to cross that line and what we plan to do with that choice.
Like the glass globe that Siam gifted Wang and then Wang gifted Inthawut, the world is a fragile place always on the brink of breaking. What we do with that world once we make the choice to take hold of it depends on us.
The art direction by Nat Prakobsantisuk is brilliant. The OST sung by actor Pond Ponlawit is haunting. I wish I knew the names of everyone involved in this project. Even though I don’t, I hope they know how appreciated they are for the hard work, time, and attention taken to give us such a complex series. From the cinematography, art, music, and script to the actors portraying each character, 180 Degree Longitude is a passion project meant to leave an impression, and it certainly leaves an impression. I hope we see many more projects from this team.
For an intense narrative series full of chemistry, thought, and emotion, check out 180 Degree Longitude Passes Through Us on Gagaoolala.
To navigate to other 180 Degree Longitude content, including some of my previous pieces, and the artists’/director’s socials, click the highlighted links below. And for fun, I have a tendency to make music playlists, both for writing projects/books I’m working on and ones that make me think of the books/dramas/films I’m reading or watching. To check out the playlist I made for 180 Degree Longitude, check it out on YT music here.
My interview with writer/director Punnasak Sukee on the BLXpress blog.
Writer and director Punnasak Sukee on Twitter.
Miti Art Media on Twitter.
Also, as someone who has read most of the books shown in the series, I highly recommend all of them, but also be sure to go out into the world and experience life, too. A special shout out to a friend who gifted me a new copy of Plato’s Symposium on my birthday in September to replace the one I owned from college (20 years ago now) with the one shown inside 180 Degree Longitude Passes Through Us. I should probably keep it with my other Plato works, but I admit it’s now wedged amidst my Jane Austen and Bronte books. No one has ever accused me of being organized.
Never Let Me Go
An initial impression
I never thought the Thai BL Never Let Me Go would pull me in as deeply as it has, especially considering I wasn’t as invested in Phuwin and Pond’s last series. Nor have I been particularly drawn into as many of the 2022 BL high school plots, but I’m a hundred percent invested in this story.
Starring Pond Naravit (Palm) and Phuwin Tangsakyuen (Nuengdiao), Never Let Me Go follows two boys leading very different lives brought together by the same social division that also separates them. It’s a classist story that feels surprisingly intimate.
Any drama that tackles class division has the tricky task of presenting two very different socioeconomic statuses in a relatable way. Viewers with financial difficulties who struggle to make ends meet automatically relate to characters fighting to survive in a world that favors the elite and wealthy. In contrast, those who live relatively comfortable lives find it easier to accept rich characters. Dramas with a firm class divide generally start with an audience who are also firmly divided.
As a viewer who spent much of my childhood under the poverty level and adulthood struggling to break free of that, I am often one of those who find it hard to relate to wealthy characters. I went into Never Let Me Go prepared to initially dislike Nueng, especially since many BLs tend to make their rich characters arrogant and snobbish before toning them down enough to see past these elitist personality traits to the person (and possible trauma) beneath the surface.
Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the compassionate, inclusive way Nueng is written. Despite his wealth and the favoritism he’s shown, he isn’t selfish or standoffish towards those who aren’t born with the same privileges. While how he was raised is evident in how he carries himself, he’s open to new experiences and all relationships. Watching a series that immediately makes its wealthy lead feel approachable rather than untouchable is refreshing.
The same can be said for Palm.
Based on the class divide, I expected a rivals-to-lovers dynamic with Never Let Me Go. Not only did I expect to dislike Nueng, I expected Palm to oppose him for the same reasons. Past dramas/films have prepared me for the lower-class characters to enter higher-class homes armed with defensive personalities. Despite the ‘job’ Palm has been brought in to do, it’s immediately apparent he doesn’t hold his family’s servant status or his reasons for being brought into Nueng’s home against Nueng.
Rather than pitting themselves against each other, Nueng and Palm see beyond the status they are born into. They only see each other, two boys longing for something more than the lives they are expected to live.
And I found myself falling in love with them because of this.
From the moment Phuwin and Pond first shared a screen in Fish Upon the Sky, it was obvious their chemistry was great, but they ramped it up for Never Let Me Go. Their stare game and unspoken energy are fierce, and it shows. They could never touch in the series, and it would still feel like they did. The drama is only three episodes in, and it’s got the kind of dark, who-knows-how-it-will-end energy I’m drawn to.
I’ve been holding off reviewing or posting too much about the series until I was sure it had me snared.
To be honest, I didn’t expect to like Never Let Me Go, so I’m surprised by how well it drew me in. Expectation, temptation, and loneliness are fused well into the interwoven reality Palm and Nueng now find themselves.
But the thing I love the most about Nueng and Palm is that these are two boys looking for genuine friendship and love. No expectations. No strings attached. They just want someone to see them. Not their families or their circumstances. Them.
And that alone sells this series.
Beneath the tropes, the bodyguard set-up, and the typical classist drama writing we often see on screen in this type of story is a simple need for understanding. That need is the thread that holds this series together, a thread I hope it maintains.
Sometimes the best way to win an audience is by keeping the thing that draws the lead characters together simple. While the chaos and storyline surrounding Palm and Nueng are anything but simple, the emotions pulling them together are.
The recipe to success with Never Let Me Go lies in where this script takes Palm and Nueng. While I don’t expect a strong ending based on some of GMMTVs past dramas (strong starts, fizzled finales), I hope it has one. If Palm and Nueng stay the course and remain focused on each other no matter what happens around them, and if the story avoids tearing this focus apart through possible misunderstandings, I see success in Never Let Me Go’s future. The title alone speaks volumes.
I need Never Let Me Go to give us what its title promises, a series where these two boys cling to each other and the trust developing between them no matter what happens. If it does, this thread of focused devotion will win my heart.
For a series with serious potential and a classist storyline that doesn’t immediately divide its lead characters, check out Never Let Me Go on the GMMTV official YouTube Channel. I have a good feeling about it.
Find Episode 1, part 1 here: