Remember when we were all obsessively Marie Kondo-ing our homes? Jean (Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying) takes it to the next level in Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit's sensitive drama Happy Old Year
. Having returned from living in Sweden, the designer is determined to transform her family home into a minimalist design. She has a specific aesthetic in mind and plans to convert the first floor into her office. Doing so will require major refurbishment and clearing away many years of accumulated possessions.
Marie Kondo's method of decluttering recommends keeping that which sparks joy, but Jean's take-no-prisoners approach seems to have little to do with joy, as she simply drops the decision on her family and forges ahead no matter what. While her brother signs on, their mother is clearly distraught and against the plan. As Jean herself acknowledges, she's someone who coldly leaves things and people behind in order to move on. In the process of trying to dump everything in sight without feeling too much, she has a change of heart and decides to return things instead of just trashing them. This forces her to meet people of her past, including her ex-boyfriend Aim (Sunny Suwanmethanont) whom she ghosted when she left for Sweden.
It would be typical from here on for Jean to gradually face her flaws, reconnect with Aim, and learn to appreciate memories and mementos – maybe even rekindle some past feelings. This is what one would normally expect from a pretty and romantic-looking commercial film featuring top stars. Happy Old Year does follow this trajectory to a certain extent, but it doesn't necessarily deliver the tidy life lessons you'd expect.
Much like he did with Heart Attack, writer-director Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit lays a journey of both growth and regression, an illuminating yet realistically inconclusive exploration of modern life and relationships within the trappings of a glossy GDH film. Happy Old Year is less crowd-pleasing than Heart Attack but its protagonist is equally relatable, if not always likable or emotionally accessible. Anyone who has ever let go of people, places and things for their own betterment can likely relate to Jean's choices, misgivings and desire for closure. And anyone who wants to dump the unnecessary (without asking if it sparks joy) can take a page from Jean's six steps to decluttering.