An arty noir that’s stronger on atmosphere than psychology, “One Night Husband” stands proud of the usual Thai fare centered on feckless youth or traditional horror stories, and reps an interesting, if flawed, feature debut by former experimental filmmaker Pimpaka Towira. Teasing yarn about a smart young wife who finds herself in an emotional vacuum when her husband suddenly disappears looks set for a round of fest dates offshore, followed by some specialized tube action. Following its world preem at the Berlin fest, film looks set for a summer release locally.
In her first film role, Thai singer Nicole Theriault breaks with her popster image as Sipang, first seen lying in sweaty, post-coital languor with husband Napat (Worawit Kaewpetch) as a storm rages outside their designer bedroom. After a mysterious call on his cell phone, Napat disappears into the night and next morning Sipang reports him missing to the police.
When Napat still hasn’t shown up after three days, Sipang tries finding him, but the habituees of his regular gambling den aren’t any help. Visiting the house of Napat’s brother, stressed garage-owner Chatchai (Pongpat Vachirabanjong), and his quiet wife, Busaba (Siriyakorn Pukkavesa, from “Mon-rak Transistor”), Sipang finds a gun in their bedroom.
From starting out as a personal quest by Sipang, pic switches more to an examination of her in-laws’ marriage, in which Busaba is revealed as an abused wife who’s also endlessly bullied by her invalided mother (Piatip Kumwong). Sipang and Busaba slowly bond, leading to the revelation of what really happened to Napat that night.
Film is good at small, significant details; such as the social divide between the yuppie-ish Sipang and the simpler, more conservative Busaba. But helmer Towira’s slow, precise direction and the pic’s long stretches without dialogue work against the characters after a while. Sipang, especially in Theriault’s photogenic but rather blank perf, remains an enigma the viewer can’t sympathize with, and other characters — apart from Pukkavesa’s touching Busaba — are more constructs than real people.
Still, on her small budget of some $300,000, onetime film critic Towira has come up with a good-looking product, largely thanks to German d.p. Christoph Janetzko’s crisp, atmospheric lensing. Kasemsan Phromsupa’s occasional music, deep and chordal, is also a plus. Original Thai title means “Night Without Shadows.”