Marketing controversy, audience response
Marketed as a typical teen romance between boys and girls, the gay aspect of the love story was controversial.
Thai-language web boards were posted with messages of support, as well as accusations by moviegoers that they were misled into watching “a gay movie.”
Director Chookiat Sakveerakul admitted the film was marketed on the film posters and in the film’s previews as a straight romance because he wanted it to reach a wider audience.[
“The movie is not all about gay characters, we are not focusing on gay issues, we are not saying, ‘let’s come out of the closet, so obviously, we don’t want the movie to have a ‘gay’ label,” he said in an interview.
But the director confirmed the mixed reaction of audiences. “I went incognito to a movie theater and observed the audience. I didn’t expect such a strong reaction. Maybe I was just too optimistic that homophobia in Thai society had subsided.”
The Love of Siam was released in Thai cinemas on November 22, 2007, opening on 146 screens. It was the No. 1 film at the Thai box office that weekend, topping the previous No. 1 film, Beowulf. It slipped to No. 2 the following weekend, unseated by the comedy film, Ponglang Amazing Theater.In the third week of release, it had dropped to No. 5, with to-date box office takings of US$1,198,637.It has grossed a total of US$1,305,125 to date.
The film was officially released in Taiwan on September 19, 2008. It reached No. 12 at the Taiwan box office in opening week.
The Love of Siam was received with critical acclaim upon its release.
Bangkok Post film critic Kong Rithdee called the film “groundbreaking”, in terms of being the first Thai film “to discuss teenagers’ sexuality with frankness”. He praised the mature, realistic family drama aspects of the film, as well as the solid performances, particularly by Sinjai Plengpanich as the mother Sunee.
Another Bangkok Post commentator, Nattakorn Devakula, said the film contained important lessons for Thai society. “The point that the film attempts to teach viewers – and a largely conservative Thai society – is that love is an evolved form of emotional attachment that transcends sexual attraction of the physical form.”
A reviewer for The Nation called the film “brilliantly conceived”.
A few critics found fault with the film, among them Gregoire Glachant of BK magazine, who commented that “The Love of Siam isn’t a very well shot movie. Chookiat’s camera only records his dull play with equally dull angles and light as it wanders from homes to schools, to recording studio, and to Siam Square without sense of purpose or directions.” The movie also reached a rating of 8.3 (out of 10) on the Internet Movie Database.
The Love of Siam dominated Thailand’s 2007 film awards season, winning the Best Picture category in all major national film award events, including the Thailand National Film Association Awards, Starpics Magazine’s Starpics Awards, the Bangkok Critics Assembly Awards, Star Entertainment Awards, and Kom Chad Luek Newspaper’s Kom Chad Luek Awards. Awards won by the film include the following:
Kom Chad Luek Awards
Thailand National Film Association Awards
Bangkok Critics Assembly Awards
Star Entertainment Awards
The film was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Mario Maurer) and Best Composer (Kitti Kuremanee) categories in the Asian Film Awards at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, but did not win.
In October 2008, Mario Maurer won the Best Actor award in Southeast Asian film category at the 10th Cinemanila International Film Festival.
The Love of Siam is Thailand’s submission to the 81st Academy Awards.