By Sneha Jaiswal (Twitter | Instagram)
‘The Miracle of Teddy Bear’ flashed on Netflix recommendations, and despite being aware of its pretty juvenile plot-line, and in-spite of having decided it’s best skipped, I ended up streaming it on a long bus journey, because… why not?
Directed by Paajaew Yuthana Lorphanpaibul, this 2022 Thai series is about a scriptwriter’s favorite teddy bear Tofu coming to life in the form of a handsome young man. Tofu’s first challenge is to remain in his owner Pheeranat’s house who mistakes him for an intruder/thief. His next challenge is to find out why he turned human and what’s his purpose. Over the course of 16 very long episodes (over 1 hour each), this romantic drama takes several twists and turns, and Tofu’s miraculous transformation is connected to a tragic incident (which obviously doesn’t make a lot of sense, but okay, let’s pretend it does).
The whole ‘teddy bear comes to life’ story is accompanied with little scenes of inanimate objects in Pheeranat’s home communicating with each other, like in the ‘Toy Story’ movies, but instead of toys, you have pillows talking to bathroom-slippers. Actor In Sarin Ronnakiat is adorable as the titular teddy-bear Tofu, exuding effortless charm that lights up the screen. Job Thuchapon Koowongbundit plays Pheeranat, a gay screenwriter, who hasn’t been able to get over his first love/boyfriend. Thuchapon constantly reminds one of Up Poompat Iam-samang who played a similar role in the Thai BL series ‘Lovely Writer’, it’s like the two are twins. That said, what could have been a simple romantic-comedy, turns into a convoluted family drama with a lot of unnecessary twists and turns. And the poor sweet teddy bear gets the worst treatment of all.
Pheeranat is given a sad but thorough back-story, explaining why he is such an angry stuck-up prick. He has some serious anger issues and isn’t likable at all. A terrible childhood is no excuse to glorify a shitty adult and his friends are constantly trying to calm him down and treat his mother better. The show however does a good job of addressing the kind of homophobia prevalent in Thai society, and the makers don’t try to pass of the protagonists as straight men who make an exception for a specific guy (happens in too many Thai shows). Pheeranat might be flawed as hell, but at least he isn’t confused about his sexuality or ashamed of owning it. Sarin Ronnakiat gets to be an innocent lost boy figuring out human-beings and makes the role his own, he makes a silly character quite lovable.
A long-drawn sub-plot about Pheeranat’s mother Mathana (Um Apasiri Nitibhon) dealing with serious mental health problems while being cornered constantly by a bitter sister-in-law, gets too random at points and feels like material for a whole other show. Apasiri as the ailing but caring mother will have the viewer’s empathy in the first half, but as the story unravels, one begins to question her helplessness and lack of agency when she was a young working woman. Joy Rinlanee Sripen gets to be the horribly written Satjaree, the nosy/bitchy sister-in-law who is a bizarre cross between a comic character not be taken seriously and a devious villain who means business.
The script is chaotic, while at times it tries to be a teen romance show, for large parts it appears to be a dramatic TV soap meant for an aging audience. Too many themes are crammed in – mental health disorders, homophobia, dysfunctional families, infidelity, corruption, murder, greed, revenge…. it just gets tiring. And no theme is done justice too, except for perhaps the mother-son relationship between Pheeranat and Mathana, which evolves over the course of the show.
I lost complete interest by the last few episodes, too many sub-plots, too many side-characters and a very random climax which will leave many disappointed. This could’ve been shorter, crisper and a lot more fun than it ends up being.
It’s a 5/10 from me.
Subscribe to our podcast on YouTube by the same name – AbstractAF
Watch – Yes, Heartstopper The Series Is As Adorable As The Comics