Dearest Sister (Monster Fest)
Amphaiphun Phommapunya, Vilouna Phetmany
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2012’s Chanthaly was not only the directorial debut of Mattie Do, it was also the first horror film to come out of Laos. Four years later, Do unleashes Laos’ second horror movie, Dearest Sister, a ghost story that, like its predecessor, weaves its sprits into the fabric of the piece rather than putting them up front and centre.
Amphaiphun Phommapunya (Chanthaly) plays Nok, a young woman who leaves her village to help look after her much better off cousin in the city, Ana (Vilouna Phetmany), at the behest of the latter’s husband. Ana is slowly going blind, and as the film progresses, we, and Nok, discover that she has begun to see the dead. Misshapen and out of focus, they seemingly only want to pass on forewarnings about the future. It’s these forewarnings that Nok, who has spent a lifetime in poverty, uses to better herself to the detriment of her relationship with Ana.
As in her previous film, Mattie Do does not let Dearest Sister’s plot run away from her. Keeping it on a short leash, she allows time for her characters to live off screen and, after a while, second guess what they really want from life. Nok may very well be the first person we’re introduced to in Dearest Sister, but that doesn’t mean that she’s the main protagonist. Phommapunya and Phetmany provide brilliantly naturalistic performances, which shine amongst the chilling tension that Do creates when the spirts come knocking for Ana. In fact, remove the ghosts and spirituality, and you’d still have a worthwhile social drama. With the exception of a few support characters, this is essentially the tale of two family members at different ends of the social spectrum having to find a common ground in the most unlikely of circumstances.