We are not what other people say we are. We are who we know ourselves to be, and we are what we love. That’s OK.-Laverne Cox
—Edited By Dɾαɱα_Lʅαɱα
The words above reverberate throughout the show, leaving viewers with a sense of foreboding. Set in the scenic locales of Phuket, which exudes an old school Portuguese and Chinese influence, I Told Sunset About You is a story filled with teenage angst, confusion, disbelief, and most notably, a sexuality crisis. The heartbreak and awakening experienced by our main couple, Teh (Billkin Putthipong) and Oh Aew (PP Krit), left me feeling exasperated and overly sensitive. The intelligent storytelling and excellent cinematography left me spellbound. Director Boss Naruebet Kuno’s attention to detail and his focus on the main leads’ sensual chemistry certainly kept me on edge.
Is it okay to be gay?
Is it okay to love freely and without remorse?
Is it okay to be true to yourself?
Is it okay to disregard societal norms?
This show has two variant answers to these questions that beautifully merge in retrospect and outline the necessity to redefine your life, individuality, and personal choices, without redressal.
Teh’s Inner Struggles and Conflicts
Imagine undergoing a self-doubt period while also trying to understand your burgeoning feelings for your same-sex best friend? This perfectly describes Teh. Highly intelligent, Teh is an overachiever. His life has been spent following in his older brother’s footsteps to appease his mother’s overtaxed emotions. Amid the chaos of college entrance exams and family expectations, Teh reunites with his childhood friend Oh Aew. Their relationship distant after a falling out years before, their meeting re-opens the wounds left behind by their misunderstanding as well as the feelings Teh has buried deep within his heart, inevitably leading to his sexual awakening.
Actor Billkin Putthipong delivered these complicated emotions and conflicted expressions in a nuanced and controlled manner. His acting is natural, seamless, real, and raw. Although Teh’s indecisiveness left me exasperated, his confusion over his own sexuality also left room for empathy. Most likely, viewers will either find themselves disliking Teh for being insensitive to Oh Aew’s abject pain or side with Teh because of his insecurities. Teh’s “noble act” left me appalled. Although he is ready to sacrifice his dreams to fulfill Oh Aew’s ambitions, he isn’t courageous enough to define their relationship. Teh is a very complex character, and Billkin’s intense portrayal left me wounded and oddly apologetic.
While Teh is obviously more academically inclined, Oh Aew is undoubtedly the more daring of the two characters. Although Oh Aew is also confused about his choices, the easy way he accepts his sexuality left me amazed. He has no reservations about his attraction towards the same sex, and he stands firmly by his decisions. Initially attracted to his friend, Bas, Oh Aew’s sudden interest and love for Teh might seem confusing. However, it is unquestionable that what Teh and Oh Aew is experiencing is a love that first took root when they were children. Oh Aew loves with his entire heart. Although his relationship with Teh is shadowed by a vicious cycle of sexual confusion, denial, and rejection, Oh Aew tries his best to understand Teh. Actor PP Krit does a truly phenomenal job portraying Oh Aew. I fell in love with the steady but complex way his character expresses himself. The way he shares his secret with Teh and how he slowly and wholeheartedly accepts the changing dynamics of their relationship is a perfect example of this. Pining after someone who doesn’t reciprocate your feelings can be heartbreaking. I felt Oh Aew’s pain, hopelessness, and determination. PP Krit portrays Oh Aew’s inner struggles in a deeply poignant and expressive way. He left me riveted and intrigued. They are not even related to the “Coming of Age” premise and yet Oheaw is riveting as well as intriguing.
Teh and Oh Aew’s Relationship
After a seemingly irrelevant, jealous dispute, these two childhood friends grow apart. Years later, they reunite while studying at a local Chinese Language Class. The jealousy and insecurities that separated them resurface, revealing deeper, darker secrets. Known by fans as “TehOhaew”, this couple’s odd relationship begins with intense hostility. The script, dialogue, actions, and acting left me breathless. Despite the hatred, Teh is mesmerized by Oh Aew, the need to be near him strong. Although overcoming their mutual dislike seems like a Herculean task, the two fall back into their old habits. Teh wants to recapture their close friendship while Oh Aew has reservations, especially since it’s obvious there is mutual inner turmoil. Teh is possessive of Oh Aew’s attention, and while this should deter Oh Aew from liking Teh, Teh’s jealousy actually betrays his true feelings. Oh Aew’s affections for his school crush, Bas, quickly fade in the face of his growing attachment, desire, and love for Teh. The sexual tension between Teh and Oh Aew is so thick, it permeates the screen. Each touch is a defining emotion, expressing either love or pain. However, the romance between them is rocky. While Oh Aew is confident in his affections, Teh hasn’t come to terms with his sexuality. This is a love story about two boys at different levels of personal and sexual acceptance despite their love for each other. I spent a lot of time hoping Oh Aew would give up on Teh and pursue a relationship with the more sensible Bas instead. We don’t choose who we fall in love with, even if it means waiting on those we love to come to terms with who they are. While Teh and Oh Aew are at different points of their sexual journey, they are inexplicably drawn to each other. It’s utterly hopeless, magnetic, and satisfying.
“I can be your friend or rival or anything. Just don’t disappear from my life”
“If I can be anything, can I be your boyfriend”
The Intriguing Love Rivals
One of the most beautiful things about I Told Sunset About You is the way it positively portrays the love rivals. Gone are the days when secondary romantic leads were depicted unfavorably! Actor Khunpol Pongpol (Bas) is handsome, intelligent, and soft. His childlike innocence instantly grabbed my attention. From the first episode, his affection for Oh Aew is clearly visible to those around him. He not only spends most of the drama chauffeuring Oh Aew around, he also offers his emotional support and wise advice. His observant and sensitive nature is endearing. The way he dotes on Oh Aew made me wish Oh Aew had chosen him over the indecisive Teh. Bas’s open declaration of love in front of the entire class is one of the best moments in this series. While Teh cowers under abject fear and cries bitter tears, Bas is more gutsy and also more open about his affections as well as sexuality. Oheaw and Bas might very well be the “Perfect Match”, if Oheaw wasn’t hopelessly in love with Teh. While Teh is still trying to come to terms with his sexuality, which is a courageous and personal journey for someone to undertake, Bas is at a place of acceptance. Bas is ready to be open about his affections in a way Teh isn’t yet comfortable with. Because of this, Oh Aew and Bas might very well be a perfect match if Oh Aew wasn’t hopelessly in love with Teh.
Actress Smile Parada’s portrayal of Tan is a breath of fresh air. Tan is an ambitious woman with no qualms about following her dreams in a genre often saturated with vengeful women. Although Teh and Tan never become involved in a formal relationship, their romance is no less poignant than the others in this drama. The endearing way Teh waited patiently for Tan for two years but then suddenly rejected her left me unsatisfied. Was it because Tan left him hanging? Tan is full of understandable rage when she learns the truth, and she unleashes a barrage of honest advice and feelings that Teh needed to face. Tan represents a hurt woman, a woman who allows herself to be broken and vocal about it without being vindictive. In the end, she stands by Teh. This show set a positive precedent for love rivals. They silently supported the main characters and even became the culminating factors in their complicated relationship.
Conflicts and Symbolism
I Told The Sunset About You symbolically depicts the main character’s conflicting emotions. The series focuses on the struggles of the LGBTQ community and coming out through realistic experiences. Even those not part of the community can feel their pain, fears, and insecurities on a soul level. The scenes are shot with this in mind, symbolically expressing love and pain in human gestures. Teh has a major dislike for the taste and smell of coconuts, and yet he grows to love them because of Oh Aew’s coconut shampoo. This, among many other gestures, represents Teh’s growing affection toward his childhood friend. The underwater kiss is the culmination of that desire. However, when Teh refuses to accept his feelings, I questioned his prejudices. Oh Aew’s “red bra scene” on the other hand is an emotional depiction of the type of body dysmorphia many LGBTQ teenagers face. The sudden need to physically project his sexuality after his break up with Teh is emotionally powerful. I wondered if this was a desire to feel feminine for his own sake or maybe for Teh’s. Throughout the show, multiple props represent Teh and Oh Aew’s love: Chinese translations and traditions, the red color pencil, the red hibiscus flowers, the flashcards, and the hammock. Each detail is a visual enhancement to a very raw story.
Teh has spent his life overshadowed by his older brother, Hoon. The main reason for Teh’s insecurities is his mother’s frequent habit of comparing his achievements to Hoon’s. As such, Teh has developed a fear of rejection. Teh undergoes an exhausting, powerful journey of attraction, denial, and acceptance. His final self-approval stems from his relationship with his brother. Despite their mother’s comparisons, the brothers are surprisingly close. They have a heart-to-heart conversation about Teh’s sexuality. No other show has managed to focus so thoroughly on the questions teenagers in the LGBTQ+ community face quite like I Told Sunset About You.
How can I be gay?
Isn’t it a sin?
How can I fall in love with a guy?
What will my mother think of me?
Will society accept me?
Is love worth exposing who I really am?
In an honest and poignant moment, Hoon answers each of these questions while lending a supporting shoulder to his tearful brother. lends a shoulder as his “CryBaby” brother suffers another breakdown. To be accepted for what you are is truly a blessing. Although Teh still fears rejection, I hope he finds his courage. Maybe even take a cue from Oh Aew and Bas.
While Teh is facing his inner demons, Oh Aew certainly has fears of his own. Outwardly, Oh Aew appears calm and collected, but he is afraid of disappointing his parents. Following a sudden outburst after his break up with Teh, his parents console him. Even though his parents aren’t aware of the problem, the scene is breathtaking. They sympathize with him while expressing their pride in him. They don’t force their dreams or ambitions on him, and they are accepting of his life choices. Although Teh’s relationship with his brother and Oh Aew’s relationship with his parents are two different things, their familial support left me overwhelmed.
You can’t move forward—you can’t have people love you, you can’t look at other people and accept them for who they are—unless you completely love yourself-Samira Wiley
Although there is much drama, heartbreak, and many exhausting, tearful scenes, I wouldn’t call I Told Sunset About You a masterpiece. However, the storytelling is undoubtedly brilliant. Nadao Bangkok has mastered the art of classic storytelling, and the aesthetic and visual scenes will leave you speechless. The attention to detail and the drama’s production value is astounding. The show uses distinct color tones like red, green, and blue to set a foregone era’s mood. I Told Sunset About You answers a prayer for hope and understanding for the masses. It is beautiful yet painful!