Once Upon a Star review: Sweet ode to Thai cinema

Once Upon a Star follows a traveling pharma-cinema troupe going from village to village entertaining audiences with live-dubbing of 16 mm cinema. The film is currently streaming on Netflix.


Manit, Man, and Kap form a traveling pharma-cinema troupe of the Osottheppayada Company Limited. They need a female dubbing artist to get with the times so that Manit doesn’t have to live dub all parts himself.

They find their newest member in Rueangkae, who’s an experienced dubbing artist and she quickly proves to be a worthy addition to their troupe. Manit and Kao both fall for her and agree that they’ll see who she falls for her, and not fight over her.

However, the fight does eventually occur, while their troupe faces several other roadblocks. They do come around all of that, though, and deliver a successful last tour before parting ways.

Manit, Man, and Rueangkae come back to work together again as Kao leaves to become an actor. As Once Upon a Star rolls the credits, all the members are thriving and doing better than before.


Sukollawat Kanaros is as reliable and charming as Manit, and his leadership capabilities are very easy to buy.

Rueangkae is beautifully played by Nuengthida Sophon, and there’s a lot of heart and emotions that she wears on her sleeve the actors do a marvelous job delivering on all fronts.

Jirayu La-ongmanee plays Kao and his envious, joyous, and sorrowful dispositions are all very genuine.

Samart Payakaroon plays Man with an understated flair and even as his character is not as prominent as others, his presence and importance are felt throughout.


The film is a warm plunge into the golden era of Thai Cinema. The charm of the era past, of the 16 mm untidy prints being watched with so much love and attention is great to behold.

There are moments where the joy of cinema is beautifully conveyed and feels very authentic.

The drama within the protagonists is not as compelling but the film doesn’t ham in the tropes therein.

The ending is refreshing in that it doesn’t have a conclusive romantic arc and that women are allowed to stay on the single route after a breakup, as opposed to getting into another relationship mess like every other story.


The romantic troubles and triangles could be done away with entirely for the sake of a better comfort watch that focuses more on the road trip and nostalgic aspects.

Immersion requires some tangible-feeling effects and there are not enough of them here, which is a shame because the 16 mm prints and the projectors, the mics, and other equipment — all proffer a great chance to enhance immersion.

The runtime is a bit high for the amount of material here and it begins to drag after a certain point.


Once Upon a Star has several flaws but in spite of them, it shines as a warm escape to a bygone era of cinema and how it was consumed.

Once Upon a Star
Once Upon a Star review: Sweet ode to Thai cinema 1

Director: Nonzee Nimibutr

Date Created: 2023-10-11 12:30

Editor's Rating:

Also Read: Once Upon a Star summary and ending explained

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