The good news is that the long-awaited Shambhala is finally in theaters; the bad news is that it’s nothing short of a disaster, even with magnetic stars Ananda Everingham and Sunny Suwanmethanon, and the picturesque backdrop of Tibet. Directed by debutant Panyapong Kongkanoi, the movie follows brothers Tin (Ananda) and Wut (Sunny) as they set off for Tibet in search of Shambhala, a mythical kingdom in Buddhist tradition, to fulfill the wish of Wut’s dying girlfriend, Nam (Nalinthip Permpatarasakul). The brothers have a love-hate relationship, but as Wut wants to return to Nam with photographic proof of the trip he begrudgingly accepts Tin’s company. As the journey gets more and more intense, the tension grows between the two, especially when a secret involving Tin’s ex-girlfriend Jane (Osa Wang) is revealed. It’s fair to say the journey changes both their lives forever.
While this plot seems plausible enough, Panyapong simply can’t bring us to believe the situation facing Wut and Tin. It’s all the more disappointing because the film, three years in the making, had the potential of being one of the best in recent Thai history. In the end, though, it’s not much better than the countless rom-coms and ghost movies that rule the roost. The storyline takes shape in the form of a road trip that just drags on as there’s little in the way of engaging conversation; mostly it’s just Wut and Tin arguing and sulking. Ananda is particularly annoying, overacting throughout, even if he does calm down a bit by the end. Meanwhile, some of the special effects are plain unnecessary, like in the rose petals scene that recalls American Beauty, or when we encounter a fake rainbow and rays of light at the top of a mountain. There are even a few instances of absolute nonsense—one, for example, involves a mobile phone being used to communicate with the dead in the middle of nowhere. Only slightly less silly is the fact that the Tibetan guide and driver, Tawa, speaks Thai as fluently as if he were born here.
OK, it’s not all that bad. Sunny plays his part well, even if the obvious chemistry between him and Ananda is mostly wasted. If nothing else, Shambhala will get you second-guessing your life. Now, if only Panyapong had given the screenplay some extra thought. Despite the spectacular mountain scenery, the film is far more trough than peak.

BK staff
Editor's Rating: 
Opening Date: 
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
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