Popular Thai production house GDH 559’s latest film You & Me & Me focuses on two identical teenage twin sisters named You and Me, who come of age in the waning months of 1999. As the Y2K scare looms in the background, You and Me’s close relationship gets tested when a male classmate catches both of their eyes, and marital problems affect their parents.
The film’s directors—Wanweaw and Weawwan Hongvivatana—also happen to be identical twin sisters. However, you’d be mistaken in assuming You & Me & Me is an autobiography. In a conversation with Cinema Escapist, Wanweaw and Weawwan shared their collective thoughts on You & Me & Me’s origins, and their creative process as twin directors.
Read on to learn more about how You & Me & Me became the heartwarming mix of tears, laughs, and sighs of relief that it was for audiences upon its North American premiere at the 2023 New York Asian Film Festival.
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Could you tell us about your personal backgrounds, and how you both became filmmakers?
During our undergraduate studies, Wanweaw majored in Film, whereas Weawwan obtained a degree in Economics. However, we had already started collaborating on short films as a hobby. Both of us then decided to pursue our Masters’ degrees together in England, focusing on Film, Video, and Photography. After that, we started off in the movie business by co-screenwriting works. We got the chance to direct a TV series called Great Men Academy in 2019. Eventually, we got an opportunity to direct You & Me & Me as our first full-length feature.
What were your own childhoods as twins like? Are there any scenes or elements in You & Me & Me that have inspiration from your own lives?
The story is not 100% from our childhood. While the main plot is completely imagined, there are some parts of the story adapted from our lives. For example, our family is half-Isan, and we visited our granny upcountry during our school breaks. As for the detailed elements regarding twins that feature in You & Me & Me—some are from our own experiences, while others are inspired by other pairs of twins that we interviewed in order to get more information to bolster the script.
When did you first come up with the idea for You & Me & Me, and what made you decide to try making it?
After writing a few scripts and directing our TV series, we decided to live out our dreams of making a feature-length film. We sat together, pondering what story we would like to tell in this first movie.
We then realized that we should make a movie about twins, because it’s the world that we know the best, and it’s a story that reflects our identities the most. Other movies, series, or dramas about twins that we’ve watched so far mostly depict their twin characters in an overly fictional manner—whether it be comical, scary, or supernatural.
But we felt that we should try to make a story story about twin characters as humans, and in a realistic way, by focusing on their growth and the search for their identities.
How would you describe your collaborative process as directors? And are there certain things that one of you tends to focus on, or enjoy doing, more than the other?
We work together all the time, and everything goes quite smoothly. There’s no obvious assignment on who does what. In terms of the creative process [of generating script ideas, and planning productions,] we’ve always worked together collaboratively.
However, when we’re on set and time is running out, we might activate “split mode”. One of us may take care of briefing the actors, while the other would check elements like camera angles. We’d just figure out who takes care of which task in real time; [we don’t have predetermined permanent roles]. Both of us trust each other enough to let the other take full responsibility for any task.
What are some of your sources of inspiration as directors—for example are there other filmmakers or movies that you really like?
We enjoy making movies because we love observing the details of life and conveying them through the medium of motion pictures. Movies are a medium that can reflect a variety of people’s lives and attitudes, and this is what makes them charming to us. As for any filmmakers that we admire, we’d say Mr. Hirokazu Kore-eda. His style is remarkably deep, yet simple, and every character’s life in his movies feels incredibly real and human.
You’re working with GDH 559—perhaps Thailand’s most internationally recognized production company today—on this film. How did you end up working with GDH 559, and what has the working relationship with them been like?
We wrote the treatment of the movie and proposed it to GDH, where Banjong Pisanthanakun—who directed movies like The Medium and Pee Mak—is on the board of directors which evaluates and greenlights movies. Banjong liked our story so much, and decided to become our Producer.
We were elated because we are fans of his works, and knew that he is one of the most accomplished film directors in Thailand. The working process went very smoothly because we all saw the same direction for the movie. We were aware that the pacing of our movie is quite slow and simple compared to other GDH films, and we are really grateful that the studio allowed us to make our movie this way.
I found You & Me & Me rather approachable for non-Thai audiences, especially with how there’s a recurring English play on words with the characters’ names “Me” and “You” throughout the dialog, and even the soundtrack choices. There are also useful cues to the audience like how “Me” has a mole, which also starts with “M”, while “You” doesn’t. To what extent did you intentionally craft the film to be accessible to international versus Thai viewers?
When making the movie, we didn’t think about foreign audiences at all. However, when it came to translating the subtitles, we were worried that they might confuse the characters’ names, “You” and “Me”, with the actual English pronouns of “you” and “me”. Surprisingly, the feedback showed that the audience wasn’t confused at all. As for the mole, it was a pure coincidence. While we made our movie in Thai, we never anticipated that the name “Me” would be linked to the word “mole” in English.
After the movie was shown in several foreign territories, we were pleasantly surprised to hear that Thai humor can be relatable to foreign audiences as well. We believe that another aspect that connects the audience to our movie is the Y2K situation, which is something that everyone, no matter where they were, likely experienced [if they were alive during the time]. While there might be some different details, overall, there are similarities.
Much of the film is set in Isan, in the north of Thailand. Tell us more about why you made that choice—you mentioned personal connections to the region—and is there any artistic intent to contrast Isan with Bangkok? Also—what might be some specific cultural references or nuances in the movie that foreigners might not know, but Thais would?
[As previously mentioned], our childhood was spent with our granny in Isan. However, as we grew up, we moved to Bangkok. Therefore, both of us still have a deep passion for and nostalgic feelings towards the Isan language and culture.
Our granny’s house was a grocery shop, just like You and Me’s granny’s house in the movie. Even though we were raised in Isan, we consider ourselves Bangkokians. So, in the movie, there are mixtures of dialects from both regions, which foreign audiences might not be able to detect.
Moreover, the character Mark (You and Me’s mutual love interest) is of mixed race. In addition, Nakhon Phanom, the province where the story is set, is known for its diverse cultural mix—encompassing Isan, Chinese, and Vietnamese influences. We personally find these cultural mixtures fascinating. It authentically reflects the real lives of the people there.
What would you like viewers outside of Thailand to take away from You & Me & Me?
We would like to portray the atmosphere of Thailand, the Thai lifestyle, and, in particular, the lives of small yet diverse groups of people in the country to foreign audiences. Moreover, we hope that the characters of You and Me can remind international viewers of their own siblings, or important friends in their lives.
What might you both be working on next after You & Me & Me? Any other projects on the horizon or in the early stages that you’re able to share?
Lately, we have been drawn to stories about families, as depicted through their home cooking. However, the specifics of our future project are still up in the air. We are not limiting ourselves to making a feature film only; we are open to the possibility of returning to create a TV series, as long as it revolves around telling stories about people’s lives.
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Interview responses were consolidated across the two directors during the translation process, and edited for clarity and style afterwards.
This article is part of Cinema Escapist‘s dedicated coverage of the 2023 New York Asian Film Festival.