A rebellious Thai-American girl, sent to live with relatives in rural Thailand, clashes with an entire village when she befriends a mute peasant boy and inspires him to compete in the annual buffalo race.
Now here is a movie with heart and is about a girl with a lot of spunk. Jenny is a teen girl who recently lost her mother. She is going through a difficult stage with this adjustment and puberty. The film opens with her father telling her that her grandmother from Thailand wants to see her. Jenny starts running a loud blender to drown out her dad’s voice. He tries again and she writes the word, “No” on a board. It’s obvious she does not wish to speak with her father.
He hands her travel information and she rips it up. “God gave you a voice,” he says. “Use it.” She pushes over a small table in anger but in the next scene she is traveling on a bus and sitting next to a woman who eats what appears to be a grasshopper. Thailand is obviously going to be a different experience for Jenny (Lily Bhusadhit-a-nan).
Jenny meets her grandmother and soon spots a boy who smiles at her. The movie contains various funny moments, including Jenny’s diary entries on her I-pad. She writes, “Day one. I’ve been abducted by aliens.” Her family tries to get to know her as well as the people of Thailand but she doesn’t understand them, having spoken mainly English and having lived in California. She writes that they babble at her. She has an attitude with a capital “A.” She gets bored and bounces a basketball off a wooden frame. She writes in her I-pad, “Oh, and I think I have worms,” she writes. She next writes, “Day two of the hostage crisis!” She goes on to write that her birthday is in two days but she doesn’t intend to spend it where she is. However, she will have little choice.
A boy from school later tells her, “They say you don’t talk. It’s okay. I like a girl who doesn’t talk,” and she smiles. She sees a boy ride a buffalo in water and Jenny is fascinated. She attends a Buddhist temple and while she and others are meditating she sees Boonrod, a young mute boy, enter in, pretend to be meditating, and then he steals what appears to be a phone from a lady’s purse. Boonrod attempts to flee but some other boys, including the one that Jenny smiled at, chase after him. But is there a reason Boonrod stole? Was he forced to do it?
This film has a lot of good things to offer but it is difficult to watch as Boonrod’s father beats him with a whip on a couple of occasions. But eventually Jenny befriends Boonrod, and his abusive father begins to change near the end of the movie. One of the best features of the film includes its music, which incorporates a really exciting piece during a chase sequence.
A few of the boys, including the one that Jenny smiled at, rough up Boonrod but he shoves back until a really big boy knocks him down. But Jenny’s spunk turns up a notch and she punches one of the bullies and knocks him down. Then she flees, as does her silent friend.
The film features various touching moments, such as when Jenny dreams and remembers being a young girl and playing patty cake with her mother. She calls out to her mother and does so even after she first wakes up. Again, her spunk kicks in when the teacher at the local school makes a young boy hold a heavy clock straight over his head for several seconds after he arrives late. Jenny becomes angry with the cruelty and knocks the clock out of his hand, and it falls to the ground and breaks. It is obvious that although she can be tough, she also has a caring and compassionate heart. She continues to be friends with Boonrod. They make a bonfire and at one point he rubs ash on her face and makes her laugh.
As the movie moves toward its climax, the boy who picked a fight with Boonrod, and was knocked down by Jenny, extends a hand to Jenny and they make peace. One of the nice themes of the film is the need to adjust to changes to life and that meeting new people and becoming involved in new situations can lead to memorable moments and new friends.
Jenny rides a buffalo for the first time and high-fives Boonrod as they share more special moments together. And, due to some help from Jenny, he is able to enter the buffalo race. Jenny also sees the whipping marks on her friend’s back and feels compassion for him. As the movie moves toward its conclusion, another funny moment occurs when Boonrod is waiting for the flag to be waved and the whistle blown at the start of the race, only for his buffalo to urinate instead.
We won’t spoil the conclusion but we will tell you that what looks like a very sad scene in the film turns around and winds up being something which could only be described as a “miracle.” Due to the boy being physically abused more than once, and the bullying of other boys, this film — along with its message of adjusting to new life situations — has earned our Dove seal for Ages 12+.
The Dove Take:
This fast-paced movie features wonderful themes such as encouraging others, and its exciting buffalo race is a sequence not to be missed!