How to Make Millions Before Grandma Dies (2024)

I have ever mentioned that the hardest reviews I have written are the ones for great movies. Then this is going to be the easiest review I will ever write, not because it isn’t a great movie, but because the words were already forming in my mind when I was watching it last night in a near sell-out screening (I can’t even remember the last time I attended a screening with such a large audience post-Covid). The laughter was so infectious and when the last act rolled in everyone was just crying softly away. Sheer cinematic magic!

The story and plot are simple – M (Putthipong Assaratanakul), a teenage university student dropped out of school to become a game caster, a career he hopes will make him a lot of money, but it wasn’t as he thought it would be. M saw an example from Mui, a young cousin who inherited a mansion worth tens of millions from being the caretaker her dying Agong. M volunteers to take care of his Amah (Usha Seamkhum), who has terminal cancer who lives alone, hoping for an inheritance.

Esteemed film critic Roger Ebert once declared that movies are towering empathy generating machines, a statement I wholeheartedly embraced and there is no better demonstration of this phenomenon than with How to Make Millions Before Grandma Dies. The see-saw of emotions and the rollercoaster of feels, what a ride it was!

Writer-director Pat Boonnitipat didn’t even try to reinvent the wheel. You know exactly what will happen in the end; there is no final miracle cure (here’s looking at you, Queen of Tears), there is no “it is always darkest before the dawn” ending and there is no final twist (there is a kind of twist but Choo whispered to me what the twist will be an hour before it dropped and she was of course correct. How does she do this every time?), but this is testament to great storytelling in that you don’t need any twists and turns, flashy cinematography, full orchestration, CGI dream sequence or the whole shebang to serve up a scrumptious dish of the feels. You just need authenticity without any artifice.

The movie’s greatest asset is its relatability. If you are born into an Asian family with ancestral roots that stretch wide and beyond, you will sense the familiarity with all the characters. Perhaps you will see manifestations of your relatives and family members here – the long-suffering daughter, the son who feels problems that can be solved by money are not problems, the calculative daughter-in-law, the good-for-nothing son and the kid whose eyes are glued to the computer screen. The story is fictional but it feels true to life with its keen observation of family dynamics when the death of the matriarch is imminent and the vultures start to circle. Grandma isn’t stupid, she knows why she is the centre of attention and even M is not spared when she says to him: “you are also sowing seeds in hope of reaping them right?”

Credit has to be bestowed upon the actors who breathed life into their characters. I am surprised this is Usha Seamkhum first acting role. She is such a natural without a single smidgen of artifice. Putthipong “Billkin” Assaratanakul is the perfect foil to Amah’s no nonsense approach to life. You will follow his arc fervently knowing he will wise up to the ways of life and when that moment arrives it is so subtle that you know it is an accumulation of Amah’s many interactions with him.

Though the plot is straightforward I doubt anyone will find this boring. As it steamrolls towards the inevitable ending, it will happen – your tears will flow, but know that every rivulet will be well-earned just like every peal of laughter. Incidentally, this is currently the highest grossing film in Thailand and Indonesia, evidence that it has resonated with many audiences.

This is that rare film that Choo and I were still talking about over breakfast this morning probably because we didn’t want the magic to dissipate, desperately trying to hang on to the tendrils of a heartfelt story. You will be surprised that we can still unearth vignettes of truth after a good night of sleep like a quick scene of a monk in a wheelchair at the chemo clinic as if to suggest that sickness affect everyone, including the religiously pious ones or the scene where Amah goes to meet her estranged brother to borrow money for a burial plot. My theory is that Amah already knows the outcome but she still wanted M to learn a hard life lesson.

School is out. Forget about taking your kids to The Garfield Movie, instead take them to see this. Don’t be ashamed to let them see you cry and laugh heartily. After the movie, sit down somewhere and over a warm drink, share stories about your mother, their grandma. I think for a few minutes, she will be alive in everybody’s memory.

4.5 /5