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I tend to regard relationships between retirement-age foreigners and Thai "bar girls" as a tired subject. There are lots of (mostly lame) books on the subject — and even how-to guides for old white divorced dudes seeking love in Thailand.
Sure, it's an interesting phenomenon. And for many Westerners, it's easy to dismiss the whole lot as creeps or, at best, lost souls. The truth is more nuanced than that. But I've intentionally tried to avoid writing about foreigner-bar girl couplings. It's boring. It's been done.
But this short film by a 20-something British documentarian approaches these relationships from a fresh angle. What if the 60-year-old guy who takes up with a bar girl, who's barely older than you are, is your dad?
The film is called "Mee and My Dad" and it's refreshingly poignant. The filmmaker flies to Thailand for his father's wedding to Mee, a young girl from Thailand's hardscrabble upcountry who met the retiree while, um, entertaining clients in a bar. It's only semi-acknowledged in the film, but Mee appears to be descended from the rugged Lahu hilltribe.
Some might describe the filmmaker's dad a lost soul, but he's also a gentle person. Mee, too, is likable and, by Western standards, alarmingly direct.
Perhaps the best sequence involves Mee explaining to her new son-in-law that the marriage has little to do with romance. She makes no pretense about finding the her dumpy husband attractive. (Shocker!) She unflinchingly explains that, if he were broke, the marriage would collapse.
Yet Mee hardly comes off as a gold digger. "My family comes first," she explains. And this marriage will offer security to her two sons and aging mother, who still prepares the family meals with a propane tank and a pan in an outdoor shed. It's a story of sacrifice.
Throughout, the young filmmaker swallows his judgment and attempts to understand his estranged father and the young woman, born worlds away, who is now his stepmom. In the process, he's managed to take portray these relationships in a way that's touching instead of trashy.