THE WHOLE TRUTH (2021)
Directed by Wisit Sasanatieng.
Written by Abishek J. Bajaj.
Starring Sompob Benjathikul, Sadanont Durongkaweroj, Steven Isarapong, Thasorn Klinnium, Mac Nattapat Nimjirawat, Keetapat Pongrue, Nicole Theriault, Tarika Tidatid, Sutatta Udomsilp
When their mother is put in a coma from a car accident, two teenagers are surprised to encounter grandparents they never knew they had. When they force the kids to stay with them, they notice a hole in the wall leading to the apartment next door. But when they look in the hole, it’s a dark reflection of the apartment they live in with a strange, pale girl vomiting blood and moving about creepily. Stranger than that, the grandparents can’t see the hole, even when the teens point it out to them. All of this leads to a dark and complex family history.
Sometimes, as an American writer, reviewing an international film is difficult. Or at least, I find it difficult. While I don’t mind subtitles, it does often distract me from paying attention to the subtler things like acting quality and line delivery when I don’t speak the language the film is made in. It’s even more difficult when I watch Netflix as they offer a dubbed version, which I occasionally watch so as not to be distracted by the subtitles and get more out of the film itself. That said, the choice of voice-over actors can often leave good performances sounding really clunky and cheesy. I am honestly not sure if that is the case with THE WHOLE TRUTH, but wow did the dubbing and the over-the-top physical reactions of the Thai actors make it seem like this is an extremely badly acted movie. Every reaction is cranked to 11 and met with raised eyebrows and bulging surprise eyes, sometimes accompanied with a full on agape mouth. The translations of the script seemed to lack any kind of nuance and went more for broad, generalized dialog than anything with an ounce of flourish. The vast and sweeping soap opera score didn’t help to make the acting any subtler. So, whether it was the acting itself, the dubbing, or the translation between the two, THE WHOLE TRUTH’s cast does a horrible job trying to tell this complex tale.
There are small moments of supernatural horror that work in THE WHOLE TRUTH. The visage of the little girl is creepy as shit, adding a visceral quality to her by having her continuously vomiting blood. They also used a real little girl for the role which gives the monster depth and weight and even though the blood-vomiting gets quite ludicrous the more it is repeated, it is a pretty gross and effective way of distinguishing her from the typical long-haired J-horror girl-ghost we’ve all seen a million times. I really liked the idea that the kids can see the hole, but the grandparents can’t as well. But again, the further they push it, the more farcical it gets. It’s as if the filmmakers really didn’t understand that less is more in these cases and along with the lackluster acting, it instilled unintentional laughter instead of the intended horror and drama.
THE WHOLE TRUTH tries to tell an epic tale that spans generations but lacks the nuance to be successful at it. Parts of it will remind you of M. Night Shyamalan’s THE VISIT, as the eccentric grandparents immediately seem suspicious. I honestly am at a standstill trying to review THE WHOLE TRUTH because I don’t know if I’m reviewing the translation or the movie itself. Because I don’t really have this issue with other international horror, I’m leaning towards this is just a badly realized and acted film with potentially good ideas. Also, something that seems to be a requirement for Netflix films, the two-hour runtime is just too long as this movie would have worked with a good 45 minutes snipped from it. There’s a subplot about the sister trying to become the cheerleader captain that goes nowhere. Maybe this one will work for you, but for me, despite some gut-churningly good ghost-girl scenes and an admittedly interesting set of twists and turns, THE WHOLE TRUTH lacks a lot of the restraint to convincingly and effectively tell this story.