The way the parallels of Torfun and Tian’s lives are shot leaves a deep impression. I have never been so aware of the heart beating inside my chest.Review by Regina Ryals
While I love Thai BLs, I’ve been disappointed by the recent releases more than I have been impressed by them. Worse yet, the ones I have been most disappointed in have been the ones I had the highest expectations for.
A Tale of a Thousand Stars has officially ended this streak of dissatisfaction.
Starring Mix Sahaphap Wongratch as Tian and Earth Pirapat Watthanasetsiri as Phupha, A Tale of a Thousand Stars is a Thai BL series about a rich young man named Tian suffering from heart disease. In a twist of fate, Tian receives an organ transplant, receiving the heart of a young volunteer teacher named Torfun (portrayed by actress Aye Sarunchana Apisamaimongkol). After discovering his donor’s name and acquiring her journal, Tian realizes the dreams Torfun never got the chance to complete. Along the way, Tian meets Phupha, the Chief Forest Officer Torfun was in love with.
When I first saw the trailer for this series, I was a little worried about how GMMTV would tackle something as emotionally sensitive as death, fate, organ donation, and parallel love in a beautiful but relatable way. Although I’ve seen great projects produced by this studio, the story behind A Tale of a Thousand Stars called for something more delicate and complex. We have two people tied together by a single heart who falls in love with the same man. The viewer needs to feel as much affection for the person behind the heart Tian receives as the man who received it. That’s a challenging task for any screenwriter, director, actor, and production team. This show needed an intense first episode to make the story work.
No matter what you call it, life is full of moments we can’t explain, moments when we think we know exactly where our life is headed before it’s derailed by the unexpected. For Tian, this moment comes in the shape of a human heart. Tian lives recklessly, enjoying the time he has left by partying and gambling until, one evening, he suddenly collapses. In another part of town, a volunteer teacher, Torfun, steps off a bus to stand on the side of a busy street. She holds a snapshot of a man in uniform in her hand. The picture slips from her fingers, and she moves into the road to fetch it. Headlights glare.
Tian and Torfun’s lives collide.
My favorite thing about A Tale of a Thousand Stars is the parallel love story it tells. It’s as much a tale about self-love as it is romance. We don’t realize the vital role our hearts play in our lives until we risk losing them. The way the parallels of Torfun and Tian’s lives are shot in this series leaves a deep impression. I have never been so aware of the heart beating inside my chest. I have never been so aware of my own existence.
GMMTV does a brilliant job of intricately tying these two together in four particular ways:
Tian and Torfun live very different lives. Tian hails from a wealthy family while Torfun is poor. Tian has accepted that his life is nearing its end, while Torfun is full of dreams for the future. Tian is reckless, while Torfun is responsible. Despite this, they share one thing in common: they are running away from themselves. Tian is running away from death, and Torfun is running away from home. If they’d been able to meet in life, I believe they would have discovered they were kindred spirits, both of them looking for something beyond their separate existences. Strangely, Tian and Torfun remind me of the figurative demon and angel that sits on a conflicted person’s shoulders. They seem like different halves of the same whole, with Tian the devil and Torfun the angel. In death, they unite, Torfun’s beating heart taking residence in Tian’s body.
The series portrays this by allowing Tian glimpses into who his donor is, first through a dream and then through a window reflection. These glimpses pique his curiosity, driving him to search for the donor behind his heart, all while plagued by the knowledge that his father’s money and influence fast-tracked him to the top of the organ recipient list.
Tian visits Torfun’s home, and there amidst a pile of her belongings, he discovers a journal. The words scrawled across the pages detail her secrets and interests. They take Tian on Torfun’s journey to an impoverished village where she volunteers as a teacher.
Imagine for a moment what it must feel like to know the reason you’re alive is that someone else isn’t. Imagine learning about the life the heart inside of you lived. I can’t even begin to fathom the emotions an organ recipient must feel. If I were Tian, every beat of my heart would sound like thunder. Every breath I took would feel heavier somehow.
If I were Tian, and I read Torfun’s words, I’d want to live her adventure for her.
Which is precisely what Tian does.
Leaving a note for his parents, Tian runs away on a quest to follow Torfun’s dream, leaving his own existence and burdens behind.
Torfun’s journal leads Tian to Pha Pun Dao, an impoverished village guarded by soldiers because of its dangerous location. Although the first episode only hints at what Torfun was trying to find in this village, Tian meets his first obstacle in pursuing her dream: a three-kilometer hike to the town. This is the first indication that the plan Tian is trying to realize for Torfun is also going to open him up to a world of challenging experiences that may break his spirit or heal his soul.
Remember the photograph I mentioned, the one Torfun was attempting to retrieve when she was killed?
Meet Phupha, the Chief Forest Officer that Torfun had feelings for. Throughout the episode, the viewer gets mildly acquainted with the officer through a battle in the forest, flashback scenes with Torfun, Torfun’s funeral, and a fateful passing between Tian and Phupha in a reception hall.
It is apparent early on that Phupha is going to be the thread that binds Tian and Torfun. Their shared heart beats for him, whether Tian realizes it or not.
Tian first meets Phupha at the end of his hike into the village. Drenched in sweat, Tian faints and Phupha catches him. The faint is the beginning of a complicated relationship.
With the use of swelling music and brilliant cinematography, GMMTV does a beautiful job of placing the viewer at the beginning of an emotional adventure by focusing on the four elements above: Torfun and Tian’s shared heart, Torfun’s journal, Torfun’s dream, and Phupha. Mix, Earth, and Aye are fantastic as Tian, Phupha, and Torfun. Portraying a love story between three people is not easy, but these actors brought dimension and depth to these characters. I felt Torfun in Tian even after she had passed, and I applaud Mix’s ability to present this duality.
Whether the heart this show is based on continues to beat strong or flatlines is entirely up to GMMTV. Please don’t fail us.
Let’s count a thousand stars together.
If you are interested in watching this show with me, find it on the official GMMTV YouTube channel with English subtitles at the link below. Each episode is told in four parts. Check out other series by GMMTV while there, and be sure to subscribe to their channel for notifications on further content.