Thailand's premier director, Cherd Songsri, has surpassed himself with "Muen and Rid," a film of such high quality it deserves much more than the limited release it is likely to have. Songsri's story of true love and one woman's eventually successful struggle for women's rights in Thailand in 1865 is based on a true story. Despite a two-hour plus running time and a few technical glitches, pic is convincingly and charmingly acted, with lovely scenery, crisp photography and a compelling plotline. Film is already the biggest hit in Thai history.

Thailand’s premier director, Cherd Songsri, has surpassed himself with “Muen and Rid,” a film of such high quality it deserves much more than the limited release it is likely to have. Songsri’s story of true love and one woman’s eventually successful struggle for women’s rights in Thailand in 1865 is based on a true story. Despite a two-hour plus running time and a few technical glitches, pic is convincingly and charmingly acted, with lovely scenery, crisp photography and a compelling plotline. Film is already the biggest hit in Thai history.

The story revolves around Amdang Muen, the real-life women’s rights advocate portrayed with innocence, sincerity and strength by actress Jintara Sukaphat (Thailand’s most popular actress, seen by Western audiences in “Good Morning Vietnam”).

Muen’s first victory is winning the right (from both her family and the head monk) to learn to read.

When she falls in love, and later refuses to be sold by her family to become an extra wife (essentially a concubine) of rich, married man Poo, the consequences change not only her life but the status of all contemporary and future Thai women. Having already professed her love to Buddhist monk Rid, who will not renounce his vows — which include celibacy — she violently refuses advances by her “owner” (it is pointed out later that she is, in fact, property) , runs away from him several times and ultimately fakes her own drowning in order to escape.

Rid hears of Muen’s drowning and becomes desolate when he believes her dead. He decides — too late, he thinks — to renounce his vows and returns home to find Muen there. The two get married. Problem is that Muen is technically already married, though the marriage has never been consummated. She fights the legal system to gain her freedom from the arrangement and winds up in jail. Eventually she petitions King Rama IV, and he not only pardons her and validates her marriage to Rid, but also changes the law whereby men are allowed to sell or own girls and women.

As Rid, Santisuk Promsiri conveys Buddhist tranquility without being boring, and discovers earthly love and passion without being campy. Supporting roles are strong as well.

Tech aspects contain a few sub-par glitches, but for the lion’s share of the film are nearly impeccable.

Muen and Rid

(THAI)

Production

A Five Stars Production Co. Ltd./Cherdchai Prods. production. Executive producer, Chareon Iamphungporn. Directed by Cherd Songsri. Screenplay, Thom Thathree, Channipa.

Crew

Camera (color), Anupap Buachand; editor, M.L. Warapa Ukris; music, Chamras Sewatapom; art direction, Songsri; sound (Dolby), Niwat Samniangsanor. Reviewed at Tokyo Film Festival, Kyoto, Sept. 25, 1994. Running time: 129 MIN.

With

With: Jintara Sukaphat, Santisuk Promsiri, Ron Rittichai, Duangdao Charuchinda, Man Theerapol.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more