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MOVIE REVIEW: Beautifully Familiar: a review of ‘How to Make Millions Before Grandma Dies’ 

It’s a touching film that transcends cultural boundaries because it understands that love and family relations is not a thing that needs to be translated.

There’s a subtle, quiet quality to Pat Boonnitipat’s ‘How to Make Millions Before Grandma Dies’ that allows its magic to seep in. It’s about the little details that its lead character, M, played by the exceptionally natural Putthipong Assaratanakul observes about his family while he tries to scam his grandmother for an inheritance. The film never puts the focus on the narrative conflict. It’s not just character-driven; the narrative highlights and amplifies the culture of these characters and puts it on display so that we can judge it the way that M does as his character comes to an awakening about people and family.

M is a college dropout and has failed to earn a living as a game streamer. His mother, Chew (Sarinrat Thomas), nags him about getting a job as he once bragged that he would give his mom an allowance from the earnings he’d make as a content creator. Penniless, he gets an idea from his cousin, Mui (Tontawan Tantivejakul), who has earned a huge house after spending most of her life taking care of her rich grandfather as his nurse. M then goes to his grandmother, Mengju or Amah (Usha Seamkhun) and moves in with her to take care of her after she suffers a fall and hurts her leg.

M discovers that living with his Amah is not easy. She has a rigid work ethic and she’s set in her ways. The generation gap is huge but when he discovers she has a severe medical condition and she might not have long to live, he pours in all he’s got in an effort to win her over and inherit her house.

But M has a lot of obstacles in his path. He has his uncles to contend with: Kiang (Sanya Kunakorn), who is the eldest and clearly Amah’s favourite, but he’s well-off and has a family of his own; and then there’s Soei (Pongsatorn Jongwilas), who is out of his luck, a bit of a drunk, and in-between jobs. 

The movie is just a little above two hours, but you don’t feel the time pass because every little moment shared between M and Mengju are full of charm and heart. While M’s intentions are not the best, he’s genuine about taking good care of his Amah. The things that he notices about her and about his family opens up his eyes and the film show us this young man growing right on screen before us.


The film takes its time and builds the world of M and Mengju. As a Chinese-Thai family, they have customs and traditions that can be familiar to us Filipinos. The ways by which they hold family sacred and the way that these bonds have shifted in the younger generation, to which M belongs to, become points-of-interest that the film lets us peek into. We never feel excluded from this culture, from this world, from these characters. We are brought in and we are reminded of our own relationships with our own family members.

The film manages to find humor in the looming death of one of its main characters and Assaratanakul gives a moving performance as a person who seeks to benefit from it but, as the story unfolds and his relationship with his grandmother deepens, he begins to resist it. Suddenly, the cluttered house where the two live loses its monetary value and the film’s narrative imbues all of the visuals with such striking heartwarming sentiment. Director Pat Boonnitipat directs the film with very little fanfare but brings his camera really close when he has to catch his characters in a thought and then brings it out for a full shot to show his characters against the backdrop of their surroundings to situate them in the larger scheme of things. With a beautiful score that allows the emotions to flow, Boonnitipat creates a rhythm to the movie that just lets life unfold. You never feel like anything is scripted or manipulated. The film just feels so real, allowing the familiarity of the story to just get under our skin so that when the film’s resolution hits, it hits us hard.

No one in the cinema I was in had a dry eye. We were all crying, touched by such a charming, heartfelt story about a young man coming to terms with growing up and realising the kind of decisions adults make that are never easy to understand but you do anyway because you love them. The film has such amazing restraint that it never leans into the dramatic. It never goes for histrionics. It keeps things subtle, everything just under the surface unless it absolutely must explode.  It’s a touching film that transcends cultural boundaries because it understands that love and family relations is not a thing that needs to be translated.

My Rating:

How to Make Millions Before Grandma Dies is now showing! Check showtimes here.

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