Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Uncle Boonmee is dying. Afflicted with kidney failure, he journeys back to his remote farm with his disabled sister-in-law, Jen, and young relative Tong. One night, the three outsiders are having dinner when Boonmee’s dead wife and disappeared son materialize to fill the empty seats. Boonmee’s wife Huay is a spirit who delivers messages from the grave like “Heaven is overrated. There’s nothing there.” She is only slightly more reassuring a presence than Boonsong, Boonmee’s son who is now a “monkey ghost,” all Bigfoot-like with flaring red eyes. As Boonmee expires, his possible alternate lives flash by: A water buffalo breaking away from a tree, only to be called back by its owner. A lovelorn princess, shorn of her looks, who mates with a talking catfish by a waterfall. Or a future, when authorities can make “past people” disappear by shining a light at them.Director Weerasethakul has spoken of how he made Uncle Boonmee in homage to bygone cinema and his late father. But the result is much more accessible and universal than that. Often times hilarious (The first question that greets Boonsong is “Why did you grow your hair so long?”), and always visually riveting, Uncle Boonmee may delve into the mysticism of past and double lives, but simply conveys the sensation of being alive. How we live, do what needs to be done, and then hope that something will still appear to go with us into that good night. More like a surreal dream experience than a film, you must experience this ecstatic vision at least once (twice or thrice if none of it actually makes sense to you the first time round). It is that entrancing.