One way to describe Girl from Nowhere is a show that you would not recommend to your friends unless you want to punish them. At least not the squeamish ones. So warn them: GfN is a cross between satire and horror and is challenging viewing. Casual ImDB viewers have likened it to Black Mirror, and there are some similarities in the surrealism and darkness.
Each episode is self-contained. Season 1 could be watched out of order with little effect on plot or the development of Nanno. Chicha Amatayakul plays Nanno with much charm and cheekiness. Nanno is a mysterious, seductive, malevolent, sadistic and provocative student who goes from school to school bestowing justice on those she thinks lack moral fibre. Chicha was 25 when she played Nanno.
GfN may well be repackaged for Western audiences in the coming years, for this is an original show. It proved very popular in the Philippines where it occupied the Netflix number 1 spot for several weeks. As with other Thai shows, it owes a lot to the Buddhist concept of karma and Thai and Eastern mythology of vengeful spirits.
The opening sequence for season 1 has Nanno cutting a very long fringe to reveal her face, but she is not a vengeful spirit like Japan’s onryō, Sadako. Rather than the white funereal rags, she is a schoolgirl. But Girl From Nowhere is not a teen drama. It is dark, existential, and explicit horror, where Nanno exists to tempt, and expose human aspirations as selfish, or show that we form social groupings to protect ourselves. And no one can resist her provocations: Nanno shows everyone their full potential for evil, and that people don’t need much to sell their soul to the devil.
Much can be said about the philosophical and moral implications of Nanno. Where does she come from? Does she exist in this plane? Is she a figment of other people’s imaginations?
What more can be said? Too much! I look forward to seeing Kitty Amatayakul in other productions (although none of her other works can be seen on Netflix Australia yet). I also really liked Morakot Liu who appears in two episodes in season 1. Chanya McClory as Yuri, introduced in season 2, starts to find her feet towards the end of the series. The second series has some powerful episodes, but lacks the punch and focus of the first.
Many of the episodes are based on real-life incidents and you can certainly detect a social conscience permeating much of the writing. Here are summaries of some the episodes, along with ones to avoid if you’re eating dinner.
Season 1 (2018)
Ep. 1, Ugly Truth: A challenging start to the series, dealing with a difficult issue, a teacher who is also a sexual predator. Many viewers may stop watching at episode 1, which shows the graphic nature and intent of the series.
Ep 4, Hi-So: Many of the episodes deal with people not accepting their true identities and hiding behind fake ones. What happens when you portray yourself as richer than you are? You will eventually have to prove your social status. The lengths that people go to for money, power, and appearance …also stars Nathasit Kotimanuswanich.
Eps 6-&-7, Wonderwall: GfN was one of the first Thai shows I watched, but Morakot Liu as Bam already stood out with her acting and the cutest angry face you’ll ever see. In these two episodes Bam is the school soccer coach. But along comes Nanno to upstage her. Bam finds a magic wall in the toilets, and whatever she writes on it, comes true. If you want to see Morakot Liu smile, watch Bangkok Love Stories: Plead, where she is blind. Or watch her play a withdrawn criminologist ten years older in Tunnel. A versatile actress.
Ep. 11, The Rank: A school where students are ranked according to beauty? The Top 10 beauties get exclusive access to a mansion, which the other girls can only enter if invited by one of the Top 10. Rankings are constantly updated. Surreal and witty, with the originality characteristic of the series.
Season 2 (2021)
Ep. 4, Yuri: Exceptionally disturbing with graphic depictions of sexual assault. You wonder if the producers are overstepping the mark. There’s a little nod to Dexter with the plastic. I won’t say more.
Ep. 5, Sotus: The ordeals in this episode remind me of notorious 70s survival film, Deliverance. Students go to a bootcamp and are subject to all sorts of humiliating tests. One student becomes the target of particular abuse. The actors must have had some sort of fun making this. The director makes great use of tension and release, and tension! Stars Bhumibhat Thavornsiri trying to escape some of the vilest of persecutions.
Ep. 8, The Judgment: The final episode calls curtains on the series, and possibly Nanno herself. If you’re squeamish you wouldn’t have made it this far, so no warning required. Some scenes you can’t unsee. A young, disabled girl with a passion for biology gets revenge on classmates who bullied her. You see where this is heading right?
The Thais make good TV and have a talented selection of actors, writers and directors to draw on. I started watching to try and learn some Thai before my next holiday. Now I watch because of the creativity and high production standards, on full display in Girl from Nowhere. Rumours on social media suggest a third series may eventuate, and I’ll definitely get on board for another ride on the rollercoaster to hell.