Buoyancy  ‘IFFI’ Review: “Why did you give birth to so many kids?” Chakra asks his Father, its a question which was posed by the young protagonist of Capernaum as well, thematically similar, this coming of age story starts where Capernaum ends.
Chakra is a young teenager who works for free in the rice fields of his father when he confronts his father, his father tells him he gets food and a place to live for free, what else does he want? Disgruntled with the monotony of his life he decides to take a leap of faith and cross borders into Thailand.
Once he’s on the other side of the border he realises life isn’t going to be the joyride he fantasised, yet he opens up his arms like Jack from Titanic; embracing the beauty of his freedom as the sunsets. The sunset leads to the pitch-black darkness, perhaps a sign for the journey ahead, sold off to a captain of a ship to work as unpaid labour, he’s stuck in the middle of a vast unending ocean among intimidated trawlers and a barbaric captain. He realises that he can either whine, be “fed to the sea” and sink to the bottom of the ocean or float along with the tides and waves.
Buoyancy is shot from the viewpoint of the teenager, and the focus remains on him, he develops a bond with a fellow-labourer, but in general the writer doesn’t waste much time in trying to develop much of a backstory for any other character, to be fair other the Chakra every other character is unidimensional and un-layered, the only other character that gets some scope is the villainous captain, he’s ruthless and sadistic, but even in his case other than a couple of fleeting moments of humanity, he plays the villain in a very theatrical way, he’s unapologetically diabolical, torturing and murdering people on the slightest of provocation, what saves him from being a cliche antagonist are his scenes with Chakra where he sees the young guy as his younger self and wants to take him under his shadow.
In terms of screenplay, there’s not much to discuss, even the cathartic finale doesn’t have much of shock value, the strength of the film, however, lies in the brilliance Chakra’s performance, as a young kid who has never acted before. SARM HENG owns the role, he doesn’t mouth many lines but he speaks through his eyes, his gaze is unflinching and he never blinks his eyelid, his transformation from an intimidated and naive boy to a calculated and bold man is one of the high points of the film. The kid is going to be a star.
There are some great wide-angle shots of the ship sailing through the ocean, and multiple scenes of trawlers engaging in the same activity hints at the drudgery and monotony of their life, or maybe the scenes showing fishes trying to survive out of water hint at the condition of those slave labourers who might never survive and get back to their normal life.
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Buoyancy is based on real-life and highlights the problems of fish trade in that part of the world, as per the film its a billion-dollar industry and employs thousands of unpaid labourers, in that sense its an important film, but in general it works best as a dramatised documentary, there are some great some scenes and a lot of subtexts but at the end of day its yet another boy grows into a man coming of age story, just set in a different backdrop, maybe if they had worked a bit more on character development of side actors, and infused the life with a sense of urgency it would have worked better, as of now at best its a good social commentary with a great leading performance, as suggested by the title, yes it floats, but it never really flies.