Apiradee Anothai, or Nang (Nycha Nuttanicha), is a seventeen year old girl and life was pretty great, she has her iPhone and social media accounts, she has her biker friends, and knows that she can handle anything that comes her way. It’s the 21st century teenage confidence, if you will. But one day, she was caught in the wrong place and at the wrong time, the paparazzi splatters her image on the front page smearing her dad’s name (he’s a minister of state) that she was fighting over a man. She tries to defend herself to dad – because why shouldn’t he trust his seventeen year old daughter? – but no matter what she says, she just comes off being rude and disrespectful. So dad claims he has lost his trust in her and that he’s concerned he’ll lose her altogether if he permits things to continue on this way, and so he throws down the gauntlet: she’s going to a boarding school in Penang. That’s Malaysia, another country away, and at an all-girls CONVENT boarding school to boot. Dad claims that her mother went there and she turned out great, the nuns will teach her manners and how to be a lady. Because apparently parenting a teenager isn’t mom and dad’s strong suit. So Life as Nang knows it, is over.
They arrive at the boarding school called Victoria (which I’m assuming is an international boarding school) and Nang stares at it in horror, the school doesn’t appear to have been updated in years. But that is the least of her concern when she learned that she cannot use her precious iPhone, nor the internet, and she has to write letters to her parents via SNAIL MAIL. Oh the horror. To make matters worse, Nang has to abide by the rules and a structured life: where every minute of her day is determined by the sisters. Nang feels like she is stepping foot into the past, where the bedding and sleep arrangement feels like a page out of an orphanage home (and not the fancy Hogwarts). But mom and dad assures her that removing her from her usual routine and technology laden life will allow her to find herself, establish real friendship and become the woman they know she’s fully capable of. And that, in a nutshell, is the theme of this lakorn, a total coming of age, slice of life drama.
So Nang tries to go in with cautious optimism. First she meets her childhood friend Kampon (Gap Jakarin) who picks her family up from the airport. He’s a senior at the all-boy school next door. Then she meets the Thai consul in Penang, Thanatip (Grate Warintorn) whose job is to ensure the wellbeing of all Thai students at Victoria. Upon first encounter, Thanatip is a handsome and upstanding man, but he’s aloof and strict. Nang feels like he’s arrogant too because he didn’t want to take a selfie with her. The consul does remind her to bear in mind the rules of the boarding school. Speaking of these rules, wouldn’t you think that since you’re a newbie, they’re going to give you a manual of how to conduct yourself so you know where you stand? Instead, Nang goes into the first day like a chicken with her head cut-off, she’s breaking rules she knows nothing about and all of the sisters are so forthcoming with reprimands instead of giving her a manual. She does end up with a textbook thick manual at the end of the day once she breaks a ton of rules already: such as speaking Thai (they are supposed to speak English), talking before they are allowed to eat, talking to boys from the all-boy school next door, and wandering the premises during off hours.
Nang soon learns of the different authorities in Victoria: there’s Reverend Mother/Mother Superior, Lead Sister who likes Nang because mom was her favorite student, the Regulator Sister who runs a tight ship and doesn’t let any rule breakers get away, Sister Teresa who is kind and gentle (she is also the only Thai nun at Victoria after a heartbreak – which we soon learn that she once fell in love with Nang’s dad – but now has committed her life to god) and Bipolar Sister who you never know when she’s nice or not and it’s best to avoid altogether.
She does meet an instant friend in Sininath (Chanoksuda) who helps her navigate life in Victoria. And she meets the resident Mean Girls who are quick to show her who’s boss. There’s Saisuda (Carissa Springett) and her lackeys. What’s great about Nang though is that she doesn’t let them bully her one sided. She gives it as good as she gets. But at night though, when all she has is the thought of missing home, her former life and her parents, Nang gets out of her cot and cries in the hallway. She had been warned by the Mean Girls that she’s going to need lots of tissue papers to get through the tears, so she had escaped out of the room to avoid their snickering. The sound of piano playing lures her outside and she finds herself climbing up the gate to have a better listen. She sees a window and a man playing the piano (that’s Thanatip who lives next door). The song reminds her of the song her dad used to sing to her, it reminds her of her home. Nang cries desperately that night.
We have come to learn that Thanatip is also a little OCD, he likes his things in their places, he likes rules, and he likes people who behave according to his perfect universe. I read a little about the backstory of Saisuda (which hasn’t been revealed in the show yet) that she’s Thanatip’s half-sister. Her need to be number one stems from the fact that she has a complex: she’s the illegitimate child of Thanatip’s father. Their sibling status isn’t well known in the convent. At any rate, I like that the incorrigible Nang will come and mess a little bit of Thanatip’s perfectly ordered world. They are years apart, I’m guessing that in order to be at a consul status, you have to be in your late twenties, which may put them over ten years apart, because, well she’s a minor. From the look of things so far, Sininath crushes on Thanatip. Kampon will have a crush on Nang. There’s Kampon’s big bro (Ball Jitpanu) who’s a chef but the next heir to his family hotel business. He’s a total romantic, claiming to Thanatip that he’s sticking around Penang to find his soul mate, which gives him a better chance than to be in a touristy town running his hotel. Mm kay. He’ll be paired up with Sininath, while Kampon may be paired up with Saisuda.
I can get behind the stories and characters, and the premise is interesting, but what doesn’t have me fully invested are the actresses so far. Nychaa isn’t selling me on Nang, there was a scene where she was parting from her parents or the scene where she’s missing them so much at night while listening to Thanatip play the piano, I wasn’t swayed by her acting. She was just sobbing without conveying the emotions. Those scenes are crucial to get my buy into her character. I can’t help but feel that if another, better actress was playing Nang, I would enjoy this show more. I like Chanoksuda as Sininath, but I was looking for the chemistry between the trio: Saisuda, Sininath and Nang and hope that it will come soon because their relationship will take center stage as we’ll watch how they grow, build that friendship and find themselves.
Grate Warintorn is great as usual, handsome, and conveys his character well, so if you’re a diehard Grate fan, I’m sure you’ll persevere and watch it anyway. I wished I could get more into the story, but I am left feeling like it was a lot of work just sitting through two hours of the premier. This is the third remake of Nang Ay, the two older versions were made in the 90s and a lot of the plot about boarding schools remain the same, but the characters take on the modern age teenagers. If I were seventeen and essentially locked up in a boarding school in a different country, I too would struggle to survive without the internet. But Show’s a good reminder that sometimes it’s good to step away from all of the gadgets and take a step closer to what matters in life. But hell, sometimes you just need to take a selfie for memories, you know?