‘Hunger’ Review: The Cost of Success Goes High

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Food is a universal commodity; we all need it, yet we do not all get it. Making a movie around food seems to be the right way to cross borders and get everyone on board. Several productions have been doing just that in recent years. The Menu, with Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy, and The Bear on Hulu have been critically acclaimed. These are stories about the search for perfection and how hard it is to get it. Now available on Netflix, Hunger is right there with those films in being fantastic movies about food and truth.

Hunger is the perfect title for a movie directed by Sitisiri Mongkolsiri and stars Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Nopachai Chaiyanam, Gunn Svasti, and Bhumibhat Thavornsiri. The film tells the story of Aoy, a young cook who works in her family’s noodle restaurant until she gets recruited for a job with a famous Chef. Aoy will get a glimpse of what it is to cook for rich people and descend into the industry’s darkest places, where she will learn that to become successful, you have to pay a high price.

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Hunger is one of the best Netflix releases of the year. We are talking about a movie that manages to take us on a journey with its main character, which is wild as hell. Following the footsteps of The Menu and The Bear, Hunger makes its title proud by being all about the innate feeling humans have to have more and more. We are not known for being a conformist species. If you can have more than you will get it. And there are many people out there who are willing to do everything they can to get just a bit amount of what they want.

This feeling of want has taken us to explore the planet and the stars. It has taken us to the discovery of many new sciences and inventions we take today for granted. However, there is also a dark side to our hunger for success, and this movie clearly explains how easy it is to lose ourselves while searching for approval and pleasure. Mongkolsiri and his team of filmmakers have captured the essence of their subject, and the result is a movie that feels quite intense, complete, and visceral simultaneously.

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In a very short time, Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying has proven to be one of the best screen presences in Asia and one of the best performers of her generation. Yes, she is extremely beautiful, but there is so much more than a pretty face when it comes to the actress. She has the ability to perform on several levels that go from subtle to over the top, and all of this in an instant. Her performance in this movie proves her talent for facial acting. Many times you, just have to look at her to know exactly what she is thinking and feeling.

Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying’s performance makes Aoy’s character arc feel meaningful and complete when the movie ends. Of course, many other factors help the movie feel so satisfying, but when it comes to what the people experience firsthand, Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying’s performance is right there among all those main elements. The writing is also fantastic, although it is clear that it could have been tighter and less cliché in some parts. This is not a novelty film, the story has been told before, but the film tells it well.

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That already makes it stand out from over half the films released daily on Netflix and other streaming platforms. Movies seem to be becoming bigger and bigger, and because of it, the structural elements of the stories seem to be passing through a bad patch. Movies overextend themselves or end up telling things that should take time in a breeze. Finding the balance is hard, but Hunger achieves by being a rollercoaster. The film has many ups and downs, so there is never a dull moment, but the movie doesn’t just go at max speed all the time.

The visuals also do their part when it comes to translating parts of the theme onto the screen. The cinematography goes up close during many moments, and this is when the movie goes from fine cuisine into visceral territory. There is a fantastic contrast between these two tones, and at times it is quite jarring. It makes sense, though, as this is how life is. In one moment, we can be in the coziest environments with our loved ones; the next, we can be siege by the most hostile forces. It is very dramatic, but it works when showing the dichotomy.

Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying is not the only great performance. Nopachai Chaiyanam is putting the worst of him on the screen to create this fascinating nihilistic artist who lost his soul to the fire and the knife. It makes for a good battle of wills, and Chaiyanam should be proud that he is one of the best antagonists of the year. He never kills anyone but goes into threatening territory, which is quite scary when he gets angry. Hunger is not funny at all. There is no levity. There is no time for jokes when the kitchen is about to open.

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In the end, Hunger finds a way to use the intensity of its moments to tell a story about finding ourselves in what we do and being proud of it. The film is beautifully directed and shot. It might be a bit too long and slow for some, but I am confident that most people will get caught up in the story and follow Aoy to the end of her journey. Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying continues to impress with each of her performances, and it becomes clear that she will get even better as the years pass. Hunger is the best Netflix movie of the year so far.

SCORE: 9/10

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