Heart Attack captures the process of learning to love life with stunning realism.
Showing at this year’s New York Asian Film Festival, the Thai film is sure to charm audiences with its quirky yet relatable characters, whose nuanced relationships are fleshed out throughout the pretty simple plot. Heart Attack tells the story of a young freelance graphic designer called Yoon, who is a workaholic in its truest sense. The demands of his industry and his own unhealthy drive to prove himself capable of fulfilling its inhuman demands cause him to become severely sleep deprived and sick. At the health clinic, Yoon is treated by Doctor Imm, with whom he falls in love over the course of his monthly visits.
What separates Heart Attack from other romantic dramas is its complex character development despite its minimal use of dialogue. Outside of his visits to the doctor and his conversations with Je, his manager, Yoon’s life is spent entirely on graphic designing, which is a silent occupation. One of the strongest aspects of the film is Yoon’s incredibly genuine internal monologue, without which he probably would’ve seemed cold and detached. The monologue gives viewers a window into Yoon’s constant deliberations on whether to choose health or work and the butterflies of a developing crush. In addition to the monologue, the characters’ body language is very telling. Though Imm and Yoon rarely speak about anything other than Yoon’s medical condition, their extended eye contact and Yoon’s nervous gestures suggest that the two hard workers are connected by something deeper than a doctor-patient relationship. Imm and Yoon’s relationship is a very accurate and intimate portrayal of what it’s like to fall in love with a stranger, which is something I think we all experience but rarely talk about. Music and certain cinematographic techniques are also used sparingly but smartly to express Yoon’s silent thoughts and feelings. For example, the crescendo of blaring horns and jazz drumming replicates Yoon’s inner anxiety as he rushes to meet unreasonable deadlines, while the often shaky cinematography that follows Yoon replicates the turbulence of his sleep deprived mental state.
Especially to young people living in the Information Age, Yoon’s condition is something that is far too familiar. Though most might not stay up for five days straight working, our constant connection to the digital world means that work is something that can be done at any time, any place, and for anyone, and so often times it’s expected to be a saturating force in our lives, which if left untamed can gradually dissolve our human connections. Though Heart Attack is a quirky and cute romantic drama, it carries the deeply beautiful and relevant message that love can reconnect us with what we truly live for. As Yoon willingly works himself to death since “we only have one life,” Imm tells him that people that aren’t afraid of dying “don’t have anyone in their lives to care about” and asks him, “Are you one of those people?” Over the course of the film, as he watches the sunset on a breathtaking Thai beach, admits that Je is a best friend he can’t live without, and discovers what it’s like to fall in love, Yoon realizes that he is not one of those people.