Film Title: The Rocket
Director: Kim Mordaunt
Starring: Sitthiphon Disamoe, Loungnam Kaosainam, Suthep Po-ngam
Running Time: 124 min
In rural Laos, Ahlo survives childbirth, but his sibling does not. Tribal law demands that all twins are killed at birth – for every pair contains a bad seed – but his mother pleads Ahlo’s case and he is spared, a reprieve that later weighs heavy on the child.
Ahlo’s superstitious grandmother seldom lets the boy forget that he is a bad omen. But the dogged little fellow remains determined to prove his worth to his parents and grandmother, even though his best intentions invariably backfire.
When Ahlo’s doting mother is killed in a freak accident, all fingers point to the youngster. But there is little time for mourning. The divided and displaced family must make their way across their impoverished homeland to facilitate the building of a dam. Might a rocket competition with a large cash prize attached offer the kid a chance to redeem himself with his put-upon family? Or is Ahlo as doomed as everyone supposes?
Australian writer-director Kim Mordaunt’s fantastically moving first film effortlessly yokes a quasi-comic fairytale to social realism, with a flair that recalls such successful and similarly themed pictures as Slumdog Millionaire and Beasts of the Southern Wild. Those films drew fire for allegedly fetishising poverty, a charge nobody could level at The Rocket. The picture underscores even meet-cute moments with a sense of hardscrabble and disenfranchisement.
Though beautifully shot by Andrew Commis, this multi-award-winning film draws most of its firepower from Ahlo, a protagonist to root for with no little enthusiasmm, and one and remarkably played by newcomer Sitthiphon Disamoe.
Keeping this in mind, try not to fall off the edge of your seat during the film’s nail-biting final scenes as amateur ballistics enthusiasts plunder the unexploded bombs that litter the Laotian landscape. And do watch out for Uncle Purple (SARS Wars’ Suthep Po-ngam): in a film composed of lovely performances, he still contrives to steal every scene.