Oat (Ingkarat Damrongsakkul) and his older gay brother Ek (Thira Chutikul) live with their Auntie (Vatanya Thamdee) and her daughter Kwan (Warattha Kaew-on) following the death of their parents. Together since high school Ek is love with Jai (Arthur Navarat) who from the other side of the tracks, is richer, taller and whiter. Despite the disapproval from Auntie that their relationship will not work, Jai is accepted and welcomed as part of the family. Despite a notable age gap Ek dotes on his adoring younger brother who at eleven years old dreams of hamburgers. They spend quality time together playing checkers and despite Oat’s efforts he always loses.
Ek takes Oat to the ‘Big Burger’ restaurant for his birthday where he orders a double cheese burger; the cost is higher than he anticipated so he pretends he has already eaten so his younger brother can enjoy the experience. When Oat takes his first big bite it’s the first time tasting cheese, which reminds him of the smell of dead fish rotting in garbage. Oat throws up and in addition to soiling Ek, he embarrasses him in front of Junior (Anawat Patanawanichkul); with entourage who is the son of the local black market dealer, owner of a lot of the business in town, including their house.
When notification arrives that Ek must attend the upcoming military draft lottery, Oak overhears a discussion with their superstitious Auntie. Concerned on who will look after Oat if Ek is drafted, she urges him to speak with Sia – Junior’s Dad (Kowit Wattanakul). When the brothers visit Jai’s house, his father calls Jai downstairs to a meeting. Oat overhears the family discussion as he goes to use the bathroom; at the upcoming military draft lottery all will be in order; there will be nothing to worry about. A gift of whisky and money is offered to the mystery visitor as a thank you. The next day Oat buys a guide on How to Win at Checkers (Every Time), Junior snatches it and after a chase throws it in a dumpster. When recovering his book, a Mercedes-Benz is parked next to the bin and he spies an expensive bottle of whisky. Picking up a rock he breaks the side window and takes the whisky package where at home, he discovers a large amount of money. Taking destiny into his young hands, Oat goes directly to Sia and requests his protection of his older brother from the upcoming military draft lottery. When Oat gives Sia the whisky and money, it immediately becomes apparent that he has committed theft. Ek is forced to take responsibility for Oat’s actions, make an incomprehensible sacrifice and mentally prepare for the upcoming military lottery draft draw; as well as risk being beaten by Oat at checkers. Who will be sent off to military service and who will stay home?
“Josh Kim’s appealing debut feature deftly balances concerns of gay identity and institutional corruption in Thailand.”
— Guy Lodge, Variety
“Josh Kim’s feature-length dramatic debut flows with ample warmth, contemplation and social criticism.”
— Clarence Tsui, The Hollywood Reporter
“Wonderful funny, beautiful to watch the incredible strength of Ek and Oak’s brotherly bond.”
– Alexander Ryll, Gay Essential
Did You Know?
In Thailand, all males turning 21 years old must participate in the annual military draft lottery. Drawing a black card grants exemption, while drawing red results in two years of military service. Based on the short stories “At the Café Lovely” and “Draft Day” from the U.S. bestselling book Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap, How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) is director Josh Kim’s debut feature film. Review our Gay Themed Films Here
Read our interview with Josh Kim
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Wolfe Video