This year, unique title cards and opening credits have become the surprise media darlings in films like Fresh, After Yang, Drive My Car and James Gunn’s Peacemaker comic series, all of which utilize the underrated artform in endearing and fascinating ways. That minor yet striking phenomenon seeped its way into the Thai film industry in the form of Fast and Feel Love, filmmaker Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s latest Netflix drop. The film boasts a Fast and Furious-esque title card, signaling the start of its epic journey of obsession, romance, comedy – and a good dose of cinematic homage.
Fast and Feel Love is a rom-com about speed – little wonder, as its title could easily pass as a mondegreen of the famous action franchise. Although there are barely any car chases or explosions, the intensity of Fast and Feel Love comes from its subject: sport stacking – the game where one tries to stack a pile of cups as fast as possible. Yes, this film is centered around that sport, and it does know how silly that sounds. The characters make fun of it on more than a few occasions.
The film opens with a demeaning guidance counselor asking a series of struggling students about what they think they might be good at outside of school. Student Kao (Nat Kitcharit) is among those whose CGPA is falling below the required standard. So he tells the counselor that he wants to be a sport-stacking champion. It’s a ridiculous answer, but it actually holds weight compared to some of those who sat before him. Fast and Feel Love follows Kao as he navigates the highs and lows of achieving sport stacking immortality.
Director Thamrongrattanarit’s eighth feature film is one that sometimes feels like it wasn't made with much consideration for logic. It is hilarious without even trying. Occasionally, it appears as though the movie has misplaced its pace and is tunneling towards ineptitude, but right before it hits the hard rock, it U-turns toward its feel-good core. Mr. Thamrongrattanarit circumvents tropes with a double-first-person narration style, some impeccable camera work and more than a few deliberately incongruous transitions, often by way of comically misleading music.
It isn’t always funny with Fast and Feel Love, and reducing it to its humour would be selling short on the clever way that it explores its themes of fixation and mania, albeit being satirically watered down. Many films before now have explored stories about obsession, the theme is in fact a “plaudit-cow” for the film industry. Kao drowns himself in practice and the burning desire to beat his and the world record stacking time competing with a 10-year-old Colombian in a manner similar to Miles Teller’s Andrew Niemann in Whiplash, pushing away and losing loved ones along the way. Or, more recently, Andrew Garfield’s Jonathan Larsson in Tick Tick… Boom! Nonetheless, Thamrongrattanarit opts for a sillier resolution.
The movie is also stacked (haha) with handy life lessons, particularly from children, as it portrays the life of its adult characters struggling to keep up with the aging process and the changes that come with it. There is a lot to learn from Kao’s counterpart lead, Jay, the irrepressible Urassaya Sperbund, another student from the school who has been berated for low grades by the guidance counselor. Jay devotes her life – literally – to helping Kao reach his sport-stacking goal whilst harboring unadmitted passions of her own. Jay and Kao grow apart with every step he takes toward his goal, presenting yet another message to maneuvering adulthood.
Fast and Feel Love is the equivalent of your creative writing professor asking you to write a two-hour love story via a mad libs prompt, with the three traditional romantic words substituted for a myriad of rib-cracking moments. Being a fan of Parasite, Taken, Avengers, The Dark Knight, John Wick and a host of other films that this movie pays homage to might be an advantage, but Fast and Feel Love’s charming genre blend will definitely satisfy even the least film-literate of card stacking enthusiasts.
Fast and Feel Love is streaming on Netflix.