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Why Southeast Asia is crying for this movie


Daniel Nico Laudit says he doesn’t cry easily. This month, he decided to test his mettle at a movie theater in Manila and documented the experience on TikTok for his 4.5 million followers.

Before the screening, he filmed himself dancing and smiling, and told the camera, “I’m watching How to Make a Million Before My Grandma Dies.” About two hours later, he Uploaded a very different version Himself: Wiping away tears in the bathroom.

“I went straight to the bathroom after the movie because I wanted to cry,” said Raudit, a 24-year-old content creator, in a phone interview. He said he cried some more when he got home.

Reactions like Mr. Raudit’s have helped make the film, shot in Bangkok and mostly in Thai, a hit across Southeast Asia. In the Philippines, tickets sold out on its opening day, theaters had to add extra showings to meet demand, and one theater chain began handing out tissues to moviegoers. In Singapore, the film topped the box office from June 6 to 9. In Indonesia, it has drawn millions of viewers. In Thailand, it is the highest-grossing film of the year so far.

The story revolves around an aimless unemployed young man named M, whose only dream is to live stream his online games. When he learns that his grandmother has stage 4 cancer, he volunteers to take care of her. His motivation is not filial piety, but the hope of inheriting her house.

After M moves in with his grandmother, he gets to know the complex characters of this Thai-Chinese family better: Chew, his long-suffering mother, who feels she is the only one who can step up and take care of her; Soei, the unemployed younger uncle, who borrows and steals from his grandmother; and Kiang, the older uncle, who only thinks about his daughter and his materialistic wife.

“It’s about something we all have in common, which is family,” said Pat Boonnitipat, the film’s director.

Pat, 33, said the area is “used to multiple generations living in the same house. I think that kind of growing up leaves a unique feeling in your memory.”

The film explores the tensions that arise in a family just before the head of the family dies, as well as the ongoing sexism. Chew has a memorable line: “Sons inherit the house, daughters inherit the cancer.”

Usha Seamkhum, who makes her debut on the show, plays grandmother Mamaw, who is gruff and irascible, but viewers soon discover that beneath her tough exterior she loves her family and is lonely. Many viewers said they enjoyed the chemistry between Ms Usha and her co-star Putthipong Assaratanakul, who plays Mamaw’s grandson.

Mr Putipong, better known as Billkin, is a famous Thai television actor and pop star.

“The strength of the film lies in the way it tells the story and how it brings the audience into the story and makes them compare it to their personal lives,” said Angeline Kartika, 24, a content creator in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, who watched the film last month.

Like many viewers, Joy Ni Ni Win, a digital marketing executive in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city, said she heard about the film on TikTok.

Ms Wen, 28, said: “That sparked my interest – ‘OK, why are people crying so much?’

She soon understood. After the movie, a friend Shooting her in the theater Tears streamed down her cheeks.

Diana Setiawati, who watched the film in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, said it made her realize how little time she had spent with her mother. She called her mother immediately after the film.

How to Make a Million Before Grandma Dies is the first feature film by Mr. Pat, a self-taught filmmaker who previously worked in television. He said the film is a hit in Thailand because horror and comedy films usually top the box office. New York Asian Film Festival In July.

The film is based on a play by renowned screenwriter Tosapon Tiptinakorn. Pat expanded on the script based on his own experiences. His grandmother, now 92, was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer 20 years ago. She helped raise him, and the two still live together. He also added more characters based on his mother’s Cantonese family, which he described as “identical, even down to the lines.”

They resonate with audiences like Shirley Low, chief marketing officer of Golden Screen Cinemas in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital.

“Everything there was like: ‘Oh my God, this is like my family,’ ” she said, adding that her company did not expect the film to be a hit because it is in Thai.

“We simply could not have foreseen the discussion around this,” she said.

In Manila, SM Megamall corporate marketing vice president Ruby Ann O. Reyes said the company’s cinemas distributed tissues to moviegoers. Employees were also on-site at the theaters, handing out more tissues during the “tear-jerking parts.”

“Filipinos love to take real-life lessons from every movie they watch, like taking care of your grandmother and saying sorry while she’s still alive,” Ms. Reyes said.

Ian Jeevan, a 27-year-old financial consultant in Singapore, said the film reminded him of his relationship with his grandmother. Uploaded a TikTok video And wrote: “I’m going to run over and hug my grandma right now!!”

Suhartono and Lynn Sindriati Contributed reporting.

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