A grieving, sullen and silent tween is sent off to visit her Thai grandmother for the summer of “My Best Worst Adventure,” a moving and engaging kids’ movie with just enough hard edge to come off.
It has that “Black Stallion” and “The Fox and the Child” novelty of telling its story mostly with pictures, a film of few words. And many of those words are Thai, with not all of them translated with subtitles.
Jenny (Lily Patra), who just lost her mother, has stopped speaking. She’s lashing out, so deep into her anger that she can’t get out of this trip she doesn’t want to take by meeting her father’s (Eoin O’Brien) one condition.
“You don’t want to go, just talk to me. TELL me you don’t want to go.”
Next thing she knows, she’s in Culture Shock rural Thailand, staying with granny “the dictator” (Phanida Suwansaad), typing her complaints onto social media on a tablet that she can’t even recharge.
“Day One: I’ve been abducted by aliens…Day Two of the hostage crisis…They babble at me all the time, like I even know what they’re saying.”
She’s even thrown into a school where she doesn’t speak the language, but where she picks up on the kid the others bully and even the teacher browbeats. Boonrod (Pan Rugtawtr) is also silent. She’s seen the scruffy, grimy kid picking pockets in the temple, scrambling to find enough to eat and doting on Samlee, his water buffalo.
As the opening images of “My Best Worst Adventure” were of boys riding water buffalo in no saddle, no helmet, no-holds-barred races, we pretty much know what the third act holds for us.
The movie’s charms are in the setting and Jenny’s unwillingness to adjust to it. She is bullied, too, over her “manga” art (monsters) and her silence. There’s always a rich kid (Chinnapat Kitichaivaranggoon) ready to lead his flunkies into picking on somebody he figures is weak.
This is B-movie producer and sometime writer-director Joel Soisson’s second attempt to tell this tale and get audiences to watch it, after 2015’s “Buffalo Rider” (story by Chinnapat Kitichaivaranggoon). Perhaps the earlier version had a little more local color and a little less of the water buffalo race.
But what almost certainly separates the two films is Patra and Rugtawatr’s quiet, engaging presence at the center of it, and an action climax that is tough, beautifully moving and yet still kid-friendly.
Rating: unrated, fistfights, animal injuries, alcohol abuse
Cast: Lily Patra, Pan Rugtawatr, Chinnapat Kitichaivaranggoon, Phanida Suwansaad and Eoin O’Brien
Credits: Scripted and directed by Joel Soisson. A KMDG release.
Running time: 1:26