Once Upon A Star (2023) Netflix Movie Review – A tale of nostalgia and love for cinemas

A tale of nostalgia and love for cinemas

Sometimes there comes a movie that makes you miss an era from the past that you have not lived. It takes you back in time and makes you feel as if you are living the life firsthand rather than just watching it on screen. The latest Thai movie Once Upon A Star on Netflix is one such movie.

Set in an era of  Thai cinema that was pivotal for the changes to come, it was released just a few days after the death anniversary of golden star Mitr Chaibancha. Mitr Chaibancha, while not the centre of the story, is very much a strategic part of this slice-of-life drama. 

Once Upon A Star tells the story of a travelling cinema troupe – Man, Manit and Kao. They play movies for the people and give live dubs for the dialogue. Manit, the head of the troupe, used to voice all characters in the movie. He used to also voice for Mitr Chaibancha’s movies, so much so that Manit idolised Mitr Chaibancha.

Each character is unique in their own right. They have their own stories to tell which all come together beautifully in one big narrative. 

The trio are then joined by Rueangkae and she begins dubbing for the female voices. Her addition to the team is unauthorised, but needed. The quartet then navigates challenges as one of the final few remaining cinema troupes and also faces a strong competition.

While doing so, the quartet also sees the dawning of a new era in Thai cinema. 16mm reels would soon be history and replaced by 35mm reels. Meaning, now the movie would also have sound!

The recreation of the retro era of Thailand and Thai cinema is something that strikes a chord of nostalgia with viewers. The movie also showcases the magnanimous popularity of Mitr Chaibancha and how he touched lives of the Thai populace. 

It also introduces the OTT generation to the early years of cinema when it was not so easily accessible in remote areas. The only source of watching a movie was to hire a travelling cinema troupe. When one has to transport the equipment, take care of it and also make sure the process is done smoothly, it definitely serves as a challenge.

With limited reels available and chances of it getting damaged high, it was surely a daring task to transport cinema on wheels to places far and wide.

As an Indian audience of the film, I could not help but draw a parallel to the Indian cinema scene in those times. India too had the notion of travelling cinemas. There were movies screened on large grounds or within small settlements for everyone to see. Tents were hoisted and a whole makeshift hall was prepared for the people to come and see the film.

The popularity of such travelling cinemas was popular during the local festival days in the small towns. People in the cities could afford a cinema hall ticket, but for the small town folks, a travelling cinema served as an alternative most of the time.

Director Nonzee Nimibutr calls Once Upon A Star his “love letter to Thai Cinema” and rightfully so. Iit is an extended ode to the magical world of the talkies and how that transformation changed lives of many. If you want to turn back time from the comfort of your home and visit a place you might have never been to, Once Upon A Star is your ticket for that experience.


Read More: Once Upon A Star Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 8/10

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