Buoyancy film review: important, vital, gripping cinemas

Buoyancy is important, vital, gripping cinema.
Buoyancy is important, vital, gripping cinema.

CHAKRA (Sarm Heng) finds there’s more to keeping his head above water than he could possibly have comprehended in Australian writer and director Rodd Rathjen’s South-East Asian thriller Buoyancy.

The 14-year-old decides there has to be more to life than working his family’s rice fields in rural Cambodia for no money.

Having made his own inquiries, he leaves one morning without telling his parents, seeking his fortune in Thailand.

Whatever his preconceptions, they are quickly and brutally routed as he and his new friend Kea (Mony Ros) are effectively enslaved aboard a fishing trawler.

Captain Rom Ran (Thanawut Kasro) rules with lethal force, sending a message in increasingly disturbing way as to who is in charge and the consequences of protesting endless labour for a bowl of rice.

Rathjen’s triumph is to keep his story moving despite the oppressive tension and the real-life conditions in the region for thousands of men and boys he is honouring with his work.

He is aided in this objective by the classic quest narrative that unfolds around Chakra’s development as a young man.

Sarm Heng owns the screen at every turn, even at moments we want to turn away from the man he is becoming in these extreme conditions.

This is important, vital, gripping cinema.

THE ESSENTIALS

Buoyancy (M) (Thai and Khmer with English subtitles)

Directed by: Rodd Rathjen

Starring: Sarm Heng, Thanawut Kasro, Mony Ros, Saichia Wongwirot

Reviewed by: Martin Turner

Four stars

In cinemas now

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