Thimphu: An Eternal Hope Review

AKA: N/A
Genre: Drama/Slice-of-Life
Year Released: 2020
Distributor: Langdrak Films
Origin: Bhutan
Running Time: 8 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Social Stigma, Before Your Eyes, Mano, Tsedung
Notes:
-Thimphu: An Eternal Hope is streaming on YouTube.
Fun Facts:
-The title of this film directly refers to Bhutan’s capital and largest city: Thimphu. There are over 155K+ people living there, is the 5th highest capital city in terms of altitude (7,375 feet above sea level), and has the Motithang Takin Preserve which is a wildlife haven for Bhutan’s national animal the takin. Thimphu is actually twinned with Manokwari, Indonesia, and Hokkaido, Japan.

-Langdrak Films has been around since 2014 and has over 1 million collective views on their YouTube channel for their filmography.

Another Saturday, another new country to get the spotlight on Iridium Eye. I know I haven’t had the time to cover a full-length film in weeks despite seeing The Batman earlier this week with some friends at a local movie theater, but that is a movie I’m obviously not going to review given the concept of this blog. If you want to read reviews about Hollywood works, then look elsewhere. This time, I’m putting the focus on the Kingdom of Bhutan. This wouldn’t be the first time I talked about that Asian country since I listed it in my Top 7 list of countries who should get their own sci-fi or fantasy works last year, but I never reviewed anything from there. I was intrigued by doing research about that nation such as their leader’s title being Druk Gyalpo (literally “dragon king” in their native language Dzongkha), archery being the top sport there, and how the Himalayas touch that country. That nation doesn’t get enough attention compared to other Asian nations. I don’t know if it’s because it is more isolated, not talked about in the mainstream, or how it’s a very small country in both landmass and population (less than 3/4 of a million people live there nationwide). I had no clue about the cinematic scene, so I thought I would do a random YouTube search to see if any Bhutanese filmmakers had any short films featured there. Looks like I got my wish.

What is my first impression involving this short film from the Land of the Thunder Dragon?

Thimphu: An Eternal Hope takes place in a very rural part of Eastern Bhutan. There’s a young woman named Pema who lives with her alcoholic brother. They are destitute as her brother blows the money on liquor and she is unemployed. Their parents are dead and have no other ways to get financial support in their impoverished village in the countryside. Pema did graduate high school but doesn’t have any work or education experience to make a decent living. Her plan involves going to the capital city of Thimphu to get a job and to live in a (supposed) heavenly place far away from home. She tries to go with her friends to get to the city, but life isn’t like how she pictured it in Bhutan’s largest city. How will Pema live and decide where to stay?

It was a pleasant watch that wasn’t so bad. The camera work was very crisp and it was very impressive to see both the rural and urban sides of Bhutan. Some of those shots involving the mountainous regions were just beautiful. I heard that Bhutan ranked very high in terms of peace and it certainly looks like the case since that nation does look quite calm. The soundtrack involved light piano work that was understated. It did remind me of the more minimal works of Tenmon from Makoto Shinkai’s earlier filmography, but that isn’t a bad thing at all. I know poverty and unemployment plays a big role in the plot, but it never gets to poverty porn levels of portraying destitution, so that was a plus. Thimphu did tell a complete story with its run time and the pacing worked well given the timeframe. It never felt too fast or too slow to me even if it did have a slower pace compared to several other films elsewhere regardless of genre. Thimphu: An Eternal Hope wasn’t some worthless work and I did appreciate some of the effort put into this film.

However, this Bhutanese short film is far from a masterpiece. While the visuals looked good, I did get annoyed with the choppy slow-mo in dramatic scenes. I also had issues with the dialogue and most of it felt like voiceovers instead of natural talking even with the actor’s faces clearly being shown. Sometimes, the actors looked dubbed over. I thought it was odd with a giant subtitle talking about how alcohol is dangerous while Pema’s brother is drinking on-screen. While the statement isn’t wrong in isolation, it felt very tacky to put on there in big letters when the film began. I’m not sure if it’s because liquor is more taboo in Bhutanese culture, but that was the preachiest moment. Speaking of that, the plot did feel like quite a cliche as it has similar beats to a country person trying to make it in the big city. The only thing that would’ve been tackier is a Dzongkha cover of “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey playing in the background. Even the plot twist was something I was able to call at the end as it involves the message of appreciating what one has. It got to borderline Hallmark movie levels, but at least there was some self-awareness and the Bhutanese cultural aspects to negate those aesthetics.

Thimphu: An Eternal Hope was an average entry. There was some competent filming and the natural scenery was pleasant, but it wasn’t something that blew my world away. I do wish there would be some more creative storytelling and not be preachy with the message. This was an innocuous way to spend 8 minutes, but it’s not something that will stick with you afterward besides some good visuals.

Adjustable Point System:
-Add 1-2 points if you like calming films.
-Add 1 point if you like seeing rich scenery from various nations.
-Subtract 1-2 points if you like edgier stories.
-Subtract 1-3 points if you prefer fantasy, sci-fi, or action works.

Pros:
-Wonderful Bhutanese scenery and environment
-Pleasant piano soundtrack
-Good camera work

Cons:
-Production errors with slow-mo effects, subtitles, and vocals
-Didactic plot and alcohol warning
-Obvious plot twist and message

Final Score: 5/10 points

Content Advisory: Thimphu: An Eternal Hope is a tame short film. The worst thing would be the drinking and depiction of alcoholism, but that was light compared to so many other movies and films.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos and videos are property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Thimphu: An Eternal Hope is the property of Phub Dorji. The screenshot is from YouTube and is the property of Phub Dorji.

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