I think one of the most divisive questions you can ask in a BL forum is: Water Boyy The Movie (2015) or Water Boyy The Series (2017)? You may be wondering, isn’t the series just a continuation of the movie? Surprisingly the answer is no, the series and the movie tell a very similar story as they are both based on the book. Both the series and the movie are directed by P’Andy, who directed Love Sick and Make It Right. Thus, a comparison is fare game.
When I first started watching BL in 2018, the series was not that old, and I remember trying to watch it, but I just had so many other series to watch that I put it on hold… until now. So, here is my comparison and analysis of Water Boyy The Series and The Movie.
Water Boyy The Movie: Synopsis
In Ocean High School, a school that sits right by the beaches of Hua Hin, not far from Bangkok, Nam is a talented member of the swim team that his dad coaches. He does not practice, and instead spends his time going out and watching porn. When the movie opens, Meuk, a new exchange students arrives from Bangkok. His father has sent him there for 3 months. The coach assigns Meuk to live with Nam. The boys do not seem to get along in the beginning, but Meuk slowly breaks the cold exterior of Nam and like a little worm, digs into his heart. When Nune, Meuk’s girlfriend, shows up, things get complicated. The boys most sort out their feelings for each other and for Nune.
There is very little swimming in this movie, but there is a lot of walking around shirtless in revealing swim trunks or shorts. The cast of the movie is young, but don’t worry they are not that young. There is a lot of scenes that make no sense. Things happen in random order. This is the worst editing I have seen in a movie. The movie has that feel that independent movies have: cheap but intimate. I am not sure if all scenes had a written script or if the director simply told the boys what to do and what to say and then roll the camera. There is a scene early on in which the boys kidnap Meuk and tell him “Welcome to Water boyy”. After that, water boy is never mentioned again. Is that the name of the swimming team? Despite all my frustrations, the movie manages to keep you interested and both Beam and Ngern do a good job with the material they are given. Beam is adorable as Meuk and Ngern makes the character of Nam feel like he is a real person, someone we know or someone we once were. Nam is addicted to porn, dreams of meeting a teenage actress, hates his dad, and loves his little brother. Why he hates his dad? That’s because his dad has been dating a very young man who could easily be one of Nam’s friends (he is in the series). The relationship between Nam and his dad should have been explored a little more, but overall, I enjoyed the dad’s story arch. The obligatory kissing scene between Nam and Meuk is very good. It is a very passionate kiss. The boys also have a really cute scene at the beach, in which Nam tells him about the midnight sun (the moon), which is the title of the movie’s OST by Boy Sompob. There is a couple of other cute scenes, including one where the boys are watching the stars and one in which Nam takes care of Meuk. There is also an almost sexual-assault scene, in which Nam assaults Meuk but the teammates interrupt them. As viewers, we never really get to understand why Nam likes Meuk or why Meuk lies Nam. It just happens. Another thing that I didn’t like about the movie is how Nam and Meuk are separated just because the plot needed them to. When Meuk comes back to see Nam and he is not in his room, Meuk decides to leave even thought his friends tell him that Nam is back home. Why doesn’t he go to Nam’s house? He had already been there, surely he knew how to get there. Instead, Meuk leaves and Nam and Meuk meet again a year later at the college dorm. In a post credit scene, Meuk, who is now Nam’s roommate, hugs Nam and tells him not to leave him ever again. It was a tender moment and it made me cry.
Overall, I liked the movie but I disliked the editing and script. I will talk a little more about what I like and didn’t like in the comparison between the series and the movie below, but let me quickly tell you some of the things that stood out. I loved the fact that the movie was shot in a natural color palette. The actor’s beautiful caramel skin color can be appreciated and I am a sucker for caramel skin. Ngern is a great actor and this movie gives him an opportunity to stand out as he is the lead. Beam and Ngern are beautiful together. Once Meuk and Nam hit it off, they are very credible as a couple and it is beautiful to see them struggle with the feelings they have for each other. Also the dad story is poignant, sad, but ultimately realistic. The bittersweet ending of his love story is in contrast with the sweet ending of his son love story.
Water Boyy The Series: Synopsis
In Ocean College, a school that does not seem to be anywhere near the ocean, transfer student Apo is forced to live with star swimmer and swim team captain, Waii. We are introduced to the coach, who is Waii’s dad. Coach has Apo live with Waii in their dorm room. There are a myriad other couples, both straight and BL, but it is Waii and Apo who we care about the most since they are pretty much Nam and Meuk. Of the couples added to pad the series, the straight couple is the most boring, which is a shame because Victor Zheng, who plays straight boy Min, is not only a fantastic singer (he sings the OST of the series) but a competent actor. White Nawat, plays a boy who falls in love with a lesbian. In a reverse BL twist to their story, she falls in love with him to her own surprise.
Waii’s dad is romantically involved with a former swim team member who used to be Waii’s friend. Eventually, the coach quits when his relationship with his lover clashes with the relationship with his son. The school hires a new coach who turns out to be the ex-girlfriend of one of the boys in the team. The swim team also deals with the possibility that they will loose all their funding and get dissolved.
The story ends with Apo leaving and coming back after one year. Waii and Apo embrace. The end.
This series was a mess. From the very first episode, it felt like a film major college project. Earth’s acting is wooden. Earth plays Waii, who is a tsundere, with a constant sour face, but tsunderes are not always sour faced. Another thing I noticed is that Earth has a tendency to not know what to do with his eyes when the camera is looking at him and it can be very distracting when he starts moving his eyes side to side. I didn’t care for any of the females in this series, except for maybe the lesbian character. The only other couple that I cared about was Kluay and Achi. However, I felt that more than anything this was a missed opportunity. Kluay was dealing with his own homophobia and Achi was dealing with the consequences of being effeminate in the open (he really wasn’t effeminate but we are told he is). There is a key scene which involves Kluay having to decide between being public about his relationship with Achii and risking getting ostracized or just walking away from it all. It was a heartbreaking scene but it was not well executed. I felt nothing, except some anger. They do mend things in the end but not much is shown from them after they patch things up.
Apo leaves Waii because, well, I honestly don’t remember why. It’s funny how Earth has found himself casted in this type of role were he either has to leave or is left by someone. In any event, Apo comes back after 1 year and their meeting lacked any energy and emotion, at least when compared to the movie version of this event.
The story of the Waii’s dad, who has a younger lover named Kan, is interesting. Toptap was probably not the best choice for this role. He was effective in the intimate scenes with the coach but I don’t think he conveyed well the awkwardness of it all. He was almost a parent figure to Waii’s little brother, but Toptap didn’t convey this at all. Kan was also in a position of power over Waii, in the sense that he was very popular, and was sleeping with Waii’s dad. Again, Toptap lacks that presence to make this effective. Kan should have also been portrayed as having a higher level of maturity, as he was romantically involved with someone so much older. I like Toptap, but he was just not the right person for this role. I think they should have casted someone who was younger looking, in order to convey the shock of that relationship, and someone who could command a room better than Toptap. Perhaps someone like Singto or Kris would have been better choices. Another great option would have been Captain, which would have been ironic considering his real life girlfriend nowadays is also much older than him.
The twist of having the lesbian Pan turn “straight” for her boy best friend was interesting. I honestly enjoyed it, even though some queer purist may say this was a sort of queer white washing. I thought it was fair: if we expect straight boys in BL to fall in love with other boys, why not expect lesbian women to fall in love with boys too? It’s called Boy Love after all, right? 😀 Speaking of white washing, my boy White plays the boy who Pan falls for. Oh, who doesn’t love White? He is at his maximum level of cuteness here, but his acting didn’t really improve much from Love Sick. I was a bit disappointed, but at least he didn’t suck like some of the other actors here. White didn’t shine but he didn’t completely fail. In fact, I think he had a couple of really good scenes here. He also had some really overacted scenes, but I blame Andy for that. He is the director. He needs to know his actors and direct them better.
The ending left me with a meh feeling. I think the secondary hetero couple had very anti-climatic ending. They went from some weird fight to loving each other without anything much happening in between. I thought the way things ended between the rest of the characters was what I would expect for their story arch, with the exception of Kluay and Achi. I think Kluay and Achi should have been explicitly stated as being boyfriends.
Comparing Water boyy The Movie with Water boyy The series
Its important to note that both shows are directed by P’Andy, the director of Love Sick. I will start by saying that the two biggest mistakes made by the production team of Water boyy the Series was not casting the movie actors into the series, and not following the original story. I think they tried to be clever and change the story so people would find it original, but failed. Some of the changes in the story were good but didn’t work well the way they were written. For example, I think the idea of having the story take place in college is great because it allows the characters to have more freedom, which makes it easier to write scenes in which they go to the bar or have sex in the dorm. However, the way most of the supporting characters were written, it felt like they were in Ocean High School and not Ocean College. Also, I think this story could have been 100% about Waii and Apo, but Thai producers love the side couples and love triangles. Spending time on Waii’s girlfriend apparently was not enough, so we had to get a straight couple, a lesbian, two gay couples, and a couple of useless characters including an established heterosexual couple. The lesbian character was an interesting addition. I had no problem with the idea of having her turn straight, but I honestly wish it had been used as an opportunity to introduce GL to BL.
Another script change which I didn’t love was the fact that Waii (Nam) had a girlfriend, instead of Apo (Meuk). One of the things I loved about the movie is the fact that Nam idolizes a girl that Meuk knows very well, because it is his girlfriend. In Water boyy the series, Apo doesn’t know Waii’s girlfriend, so this inversion of power dynamics doesn’t happen.
The famous sexual assault scene in the movie is replaced with a stronger scene, but because the movie version is so tame, we are able to forget it and label it as rough play. Here, Waii has the intention of raping Apo. It seems like he starts but gives up midway. It is never clear if it happened or not, and if Waii ever apologizes for the rape [attempt?]. Awkward does not begin to describe my feelings watching that scene. I like the movie scene better. It conveys the confusion that Nam has, the fact that he can overpower Meuk, but leaves us never knowing if he was going to go through or not with it. It may not make it less wrong, but it is certainly more palatable than the series version of the scene.
I personally don’t see the chemistry between New and Earth. The effectiveness of their cute scenes rests entirely on New, who is gifted at doing the puppy eyes and giving you the most innocent looks and cutest facial expressions. I have never been a fan of New, but I can see how people watching this back when it aired would have fallen in love with him. Ngern and Beam on the other hand, have great chemistry. Beam is adorable as Meuk. When Ngern holds him or hugs him, it is just the cutest thing ever. Beam is also a better actor than New, and so in that final scene when he hugs Ngern and cries as he begs him not to leave him again, it is heart felt and powerful, and it made me cry.
For all the additional time they had in the series, they didn’t fix one of the biggest issues with the movie in terms of the plot of the series: how does Apo fall for Waii? Many people say the series builds up the relationship better than the movie. That’s probably because the movie is as BLesque as you get and so we get the characters falling for each other with no explanation and no real slow build up to it. I think in the movie, you do get the feeling that Nam thinks Meuk is cute. The scene in which Meuk is sick and Nam wraps a blanket around him conveyed that to me at least. The series has a similar scene and so we get that Waii likes Apo, but in the series Earth doesn’t do that great of a job to show us that change in the character. I think Ngern’s portrayal of Nam is much more nuanced. However, neither the series nor the movie explains how, why or when, Apo/Meuk falls for Nam/Waii. It just happens. It would be unfair to say that this is a huge issue, because we all know that sometimes you just see someone and like them without even knowing why or how, so we can just blame the hormones for this plot hole.
I definitely enjoyed more the development of the dad’s relationship with Kan in the series. In what I think is the best scene in the series, and Earth’s best acting in the series, the dad cries alone in his room when Waii walks in and comforts him. It is a heartbreaking scene and I only wish the writers would have mirrored that scene later with Waii crying over Apo and his dad consoling him. In any event, I do think that this is one point in which the series is stronger than the movie. Note however, that I still think that Toptap was not effective as Kan. The movie’s Kan was lot better and while I didn’t care much for the dad in the movie (he seemed like a pushover), I thought the age gap being so much greater really helped to convey the idea that love has no age or gender, and that older people deserve a chance at love too. Also, in the movie when Nam moves back to his dad’s house, he does not have to live with Kan, but in the series Waii reaches out to Kan to have him come back to the house. Thus, in the series Waii accepts Kan as his dad’s lover and accepts the fact that his dad deserves a chance at love too.
There is one big plot hole in the movie that the series does not have. When Meuk comes back to see Nam, the teammates tell him that Nam is back at his dad’s house. He had been to this house before so why doesn’t he asks his driver to take him there? As viewers, we are left scratching our heads why these two love birds are separated for so long. It makes no sense. Of course, this works well for the story as we get the post-credit scene of Meuk finding out Nam is his roommate in college. Then after he sees him, he hugs Nam and tells him never to leave him. Meuk cries and we cry. Its beautiful but why was such a critical scene a post-credit scene? Was it the epilogue of the original novel? In any event, the series at least gives us a good reason for Apo to leave.
Both the movie and the series have a great OST, but the movie’s OST is by Boy Sompob. I think the movie’s OST is a top 5 Thai BL song for me. It is catchy, highly emotional and poetic. Its one of the few Thai BL OSTs I liked even before I watched the series. Boy Sompob is truly the king of Thai BL OSTs.
I would like to note an important technical difference between the movie and the series: the movie is shot with a natural color pallet but the series has that hard washout of colors that a lot of Thai series have. This is done to make the actors look like they have lighter skin tones. Colorism in Asia is a major issue and whiteness is revered. Apo is especially lacking in sun exposure. Watching the series I kept thinking, why are they so white if they spend time outside swimming? In any event, I enjoy the more realistic color palette used in the movie, so once again the movie wins over the series.
Speaking of color in both the movie and the series, Apo/Meuk wears a yellow poncho, while Waii/Nam wear a red hoodie. I think there is some important color symbolism here. The color of red likely represents passion and carnal pleasure, while yellow symbolizes purity and innocence. It’s like they are polar opposites who are attracted to each other. I think the series presents this contrast in the personalities of the MC better than the movie. Of course, in the movie Nam is a porn addict while in the series Waii is just hot headed. Which one is more aptly represented by red is really up to your taste, I guess. At least Meuk and Apo are both presented as being pure and innocent in very similar ways. Regardless, director Andy thought the symbolic use of color was important enough to use it in both the movie and the series.
Which one is better?
Though it has its flaws, the movie has a well-told story with a great ending. It is simple and easy to watch. I have a much higher tolerance for messy storytelling and bad audio if the time I spent watching is short. So, I tend to be more lenient with movies and short series. Also, the movie’s flaws are upset by a story that has heart. The number of cute scenes we get, the hot kiss scene and the great OST by Boy Sompob help push up the score to a solid 8/10. I think everyone who is a BL fan should watch this movie.
The series has so many issues. Bad editing, bad sound, wooden acting, and boring and meandering side stories. On top of that, the payoff for these side stories is not great. The lesbian who falls in love with a boy is perhaps the best developed of the side stories and the one we care the most. The Kluay-Achi story is the one with the most potential but it is mostly wasted. The actor who played Achi should have gone on to do a lot more BL, I am surprised he didn’t but that’s probably because this series did not do as well as GMMTV probably had hope for (How do I know? Tell me how many fan meetings of Water boyy you have heard of?). The OST is good, New is adorable and the one awkward kissing scene is offset by a decent kissing scene later. Note that the kissing scene in the movie is much better and more poignant.
This is a show that can be skipped. Sometimes I wonder if the actors also wanted to skip this series, as they just seemed to lack any interest in performing here. I give it a 5/10.
The clear winner here is the movie. So if you are interested in the Water Boyy story, watch the movie and skip the series.