Two boys lie in a hammock as the sun rises across the turquoise sea before them.
One is all in; his legs tucked up besides the other boy’s head, his hand gently on the other’s knee. The lush long fingers of morning creep in towards them. The other boy’s feet hang out the side of the hammock, touching the ground. Is he resting them or preparing to leave? Is he in or out of the hammock? It could be either.
This tableau of beauty, of intimacy, and of connection in the deep shadow of morning and of fleeing when the sunlight hits, is the kind of powerful and evocative image that the Thai I Told Sunset About You delivers through five intensely emotional episodes. To say that the show is a Thai BL is to do it a disservice: the kind of generic labelling that stopped me from watching it when it aired in 2020 because of the declining quality of the content being served up under that genre.
Instead I Told Sunset About You is so real, so raw and often so on point in its portrayal of adolescent romance that parts of it were like an emotional suckerpunch; bringing back from the depths the confusion, insecurity, and terror of rejection: that conflicting desire to find someone who is entirely yours without having to open yourself up in return. All those floundering moments of our teenage years.
Teh (Billkin Putthipong Assaratanakul) and Oh-aew (PP Krit Amnuaydechkorn) used to be friends when they were young but fell out over their competing ambitions in musical theatre. Reconnecting in their final year of highschool, the two repair their friendship and Teh offers to help Oh-aew improve his Chinese for the University admissions process.
While Oh-aew has gone through the process of accepting that he is gay and is enamoured of mutual friend, Bas (Khunpol Pongpol Panyamit), Teh has defined himself both publicly and privately as a straight man and even has a girlfriend lined up for when he graduates from high school (Tarn played by Smile Parada Thitawachira).
As a romantic relationship develops between the two boys, Teh in particular finds his identity uncomfortably challenged. Even more than that, he is scared of vulnerability and of being out of control. Like a scene where the two kiss out of sight under the water: it’s both an image of them giving in to their emotions but also of Teh being only willing to do so away from sight and holding his breath.
Set in the adolescent transition of highschool to the real world, the drama is as much about finding your place in the world as it is about finding someone to share your life with. And like most of Thai television, it’s a celebration of friendship and the loving and non-judgemental support of those around you.
I Told Sunset About You is visually stunning and beautifully anchored in place. It is not just Thai, but Southern Thai. It’s Phuket in all its melting pot glory. From Teh’s Chinese mother’s noodle house to the colourful colonial buildings and temples – merging of the modern and the new – I Told Sunset About You is a story grounded firmly in space and time.
Who these characters are is inherently formed by where they are and it’s what makes the writing so fine and the characterisation so well-rounded.
While parts of I Told Sunset About You are difficult and uncomfortable to watch, the show truly is a wonderful exploration of falling in love but also embracing bravery in that love. And those lessons are as important for straight relationships as they are for gay ones. And in the end, that’s what makes it such a beautiful drama. Because we will all recognise ourselves, for better or for worse, in these characters. Even in those moments when we don’t want to. And the universality is what turns this from a good show to a great show.