Genre: Drama
Director: Pat Boonnitipat
Cast: Putthipong Assaratanakul, Usha Seamkhum, Sanya Kunakorn, Sarinrat Thomas, Pongsatorn Jongwilas, Tontawan Tantivejakul
Runtime: 2 hrs 7 mins
Rating: PG
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 30 May 2024

Synopsis: After investing a significant portion of one’s life and fortune in education spanning over two decades, the natural expectation would be to enjoy financial prosperity for the remaining years, wouldn't it? ‘M’, driven by the desire for a multimillion-dollar inheritance, puts aside his dreams as a hopeful game caster to care for his terminally ill grandmother. However, winning Grandma's favor is no easy feat. She proves to be a tough nut to crack - demanding, exacting, and exceedingly difficult to please. To add to the drama, he's not the only one gunning for the inheritance. M finds himself embroiled in a gripping competition, where he must go to great lengths to become the apple of Grandma's eye before time runs out, all in pursuit of a life-changing, multimillion-dollar inheritance.

Movie Review:

The title refers to teenage university dropout M’s (Putthipong ‘Billkin’ Assaratanakul) motives moving into his maternal grandmother’s tenement home in Bangkok’s Chinatown one day, after learning that she has Stage 4 intestinal cancer. While he starts off being Amah’s (Usha Seamkhum) caregiver, M gradually becomes her companion, and over mornings selling congee at the market, visits to the doctor for her chemotherapy sessions and Sundays with the rest of the extended family, the two develop a bond that M hopes will make her decide to will her inheritance to him (over her two sons and daughter).

As predictable as it may be, there is absolutely good reason why television director Pat Boonnitipat’s feature film debut is Thailand’s biggest film of the year to date. Without ever needing to tip into melodrama or histrionics, ‘How to Make Millions Before Grandma Dies’ holds a mirror to the disintegration of Asian family values in today’s modern society, where the older generation are left with an empty nest after their children move out, leaving them to cope with the ensuing isolation, futility and even despair within their four walls that used to be filled with company and laughter.

Like how M’s cousin Mui (Tontawan Tantivejakul) shrewdly points out, what they yearn is for their children to spend time with them, and it is after M observes how Mui inherits her paternal grandfather’s house that M decides to do likewise with his Amah in the hopes of being first in line to inherit her shophouse. Unfortunately for him, M finds himself competing with his uncles – Kiang (Sanya Kunakorn), an upstart stock broker who is married with a young daughter Rainbow (Himawari Tajiri); and Soei (Pongsatorn Jongwilas), a ne’er-do-well who only returns to see his mother when he needs her money to pay off his debts.

Each of them is fully aware of what the other is after, even for that matter Amah, who tells M matter-of-factly that he is sowing seeds in the hope of reaping them. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that the hand that Amah will deal each of her sons and her grandson is absolutely fair and objective, notwithstanding the emotions involved. The same however cannot be said of M’s mother (Sarinat Thomas), or Amah’s daughter, who like Amah becomes a victim of that generation’s favouritism towards the male gender.

This is as much Amah’s story as it is M’s, as well as Kiang’s and Soei’s, and each of these males will be compelled over the course of M’s last days to think hard about how they want to make good with Amah. Is how they treat Amah dependent on how much inheritance she wills to them, or is it borne out of true filial piety? Their respective reconciliations are deeply poignant, and we dare say, will leave you with hardly a dry eye. It helps that Boonnitipat, who penned the script with Thodsapon Thiptinnakorn, handles the character transformations with nuance and care, so they come off genuine and moving.

That also speaks to the character-driven approach which Boonnitipat employs, allowing each of the character’s motivations to show itself over the course of the two-hour movie, as well as the relationship between M and his Amah to grow artlessly. In turn, both his lead stars reward the material with deeply affecting performances; special mention goes to Usha, who is like Boonnitipat, making her feature acting debut here after a lifetime of commercials. Both Usha and Billkin share a delightful, easy-going chemistry with each other, and it is heartwarming just watching them go over the minutiae of their daily lives together.

Amidst the bombast of a Hollywood summer slate, ‘How to Make Millions Before Grandma Dies’ is a refreshingly down-to-earth drama that will resonate with you long after the lights come on. Like we said, it holds a mirror to the intergenerational dynamics in Asian families today, and will certainly make you wonder how we ought to better treasure the time we have with our parents and grandparents, and examine any artifice we may bring to the relationship we want to build with them. It is one of the most sincerely touching films we’ve seen in a while, and for that reason, a surefire contender for one of our favourite movies of the year.

Movie Rating:

(A deeply affecting portrait of inter-generational family dynamics, this unassuming slice-of-life drama is one of the most poignant movies we've seen in a while)

Review by Gabriel Chong

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