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“Hunger”: The New Thai Film Making Waves on Netflix

by Assessor

If you’re someone who enjoys visiting restaurants and indulging in exquisite dishes, you might not be familiar with the less glamorous side of the culinary world. Working in a kitchen can be an incredibly stressful and demanding experience. The tension, pressure, and pursuit of perfection are all part of a chef’s daily life.

In recent years, the film and television industry has shed light on this environment through productions like “El Menú” and “El Oso” (The Bear), an award-winning series on FX. Both of these shows portrayed the world of fine dining as a profession that demands blood, sweat, and tears. Joining these projects is a new addition from Netflix: “Hunger,” a Thai film that chronicles the arduous journey to becoming a renowned chef.

Directed by Sitisiri Mongkolsiri, known for his work on Netflix’s “Girl From Nowhere” and the mythical film “Sang Krasue,” “Hunger” combines elements of horror and drama. The film has even been compared to Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash.”

According to Netflix’s official summary, “Hunger” follows Aoy, a young woman in her twenties who runs her family’s local stir-fried noodle restaurant in Bangkok’s old town. One day, she receives an invitation to join “Hunger,” Thailand’s number one luxury chef’s table team, led by the famous and infamous Chef Paul.

While the premise may sound familiar, “Hunger” takes this concept and places it in the demanding and often hostile environment of the kitchen, where mistakes are not tolerated. This kind of high-pressure setting is all too common in a performance-driven industry. Over the years, we have seen various shows and movies successfully recreate this chaotic world. A 2021 film titled “Boiling Point” provided an inside look at the kitchen environment, showcasing the total chaos that unfolds behind the scenes.

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“The Bear” focuses more on the practical issues involved in running a kitchen and how the commercial side of the industry exacerbates the anxiety among chefs. Even “El Menú,” despite its horror elements, highlights how demanding high-end clientele can worsen the aforementioned problems.

What makes “Hunger” particularly interesting is its focus on the protagonist, Aoy. Director Mongkolsiri, known for his work in the horror genre, skillfully portrays the psychological stress Aoy experiences in the kitchen. Aoy must navigate Chef Paul’s demanding character, who serves as both a mentor and a tormentor.

One scene shows Aoy standing amid scattered pans, extinguished flames, and lit stoves in an abandoned kitchen. The rhythmic drumbeats intensify as she repetitively prepares various ingredients, while being instructed to go faster with each repetition. While extreme acts like cannibalism may not be depicted, the tension in this scene will definitely keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

Chutimon “Aokbab” Chuengcharoensukying, a renowned Thai actress known for her roles in “Bad Genius” (2017) and “Faces of Anne” (2022), plays the lead role of Aoy. Her performance in “Bad Genius” earned her more than a dozen separate awards from various institutions, including Best Newcomer at the Asian Film Awards and Best Actress in a Leading Role (Film) at the Thai-based Maya Awards.

Nopachai “Peter” Jayanama, recognized for his role in the action film “Headshot” (2011), takes on the opposing role of Chef Paul. Peter has also been involved in Netflix’s miniseries “Hurts Like Hell” (2018) and “Homestay” as well as “Nymph” (2009), which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009.

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“Hunger” is a co-production between Netflix and the Thai film studio Song Sound Production. Song Sound Production’s previous works include “Faces of Anne” (2022), “Where We Belong” (2019), and “Tang Wong” (2013). The studio has primarily focused on dramatic films, occasionally venturing into comedy and romance. “Hunger” will mark their second venture into suspenseful storytelling.

You can enjoy “Hunger” on the Netflix platform.

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