If you’re hungry, make sure you have something in front of you while you watch Netflix’s Hunger. The Thai drama film was released on the streaming service Saturday and manages to make food look so delicious, comforting and sometimes off-putting all at once.
Hunger tells the story of a determined street cook Aoy, played by Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, who gets an opportunity to join an innovative culinary team, Hunger, run by a famous, power-crazy chef played by Nopachai Chaiyanam.
Through her experience in Hunger’s kitchen, Aoy works her way to the top of the cooking industry — but she realizes that although all she wants is to be special, it isn’t everything she hoped it would be.
Along the way, the audience gets to see the crazy events the Hunger team works on, including the private birthday parties and family dinners of elite politicians, the upper class and important figures. The film emphasizes the contrast between these fancy events and the small street-side storefront where Aoy is from.
While the film explores the class divides in Bangkok and the agricultural sector, Thailand bears the highest income inequality rate in East Asia with rural households making only about 68 percent of urban households each month.
But Hunger questions whether being fancy or rich really means anything better. At one point, Aoy tries to cook a fancy pork chop for her loved ones, only for them to prefer her dad’s cheaply made fried noodles. It also challenges the cutthroat nature of the kitchen and the deeply rooted idea that the only way to be successful is to work harder than anyone else.
The film was directed by Sitisiri Mongkolsiri, and while it leans away from the horror-based films of his past — such as 2019’s Inhuman Kiss and 2013’s Last Summer — he takes the opportunity to place some gruesome, stomach-churning food scenes. At moments, people look like they are tearing into blood and flesh as they eat wagyu sausage soaked in a red sauce.
“For me, the word ‘horror’ doesn’t mean it has to have ghosts,” Mongkolsiri told NME. “It can just be a feeling of fear. One of my themes in past movies is that humanity is scarier than ghosts. That’s my horror.”
Overall, the movie feels like a weird smorgasbord of themes and ideas. I often had no idea where the plot was going, which created this eerie feeling as if I were waiting for a jump scare. It fits alongside the film style and themes of movies such as Parasite, Whiplash and The Menu.
While I enjoyed the imagery, lighting and beautiful set of the movie, it was at least a half hour too long and really hammered in the messages until they didn’t feel eye-opening anymore.
If you really enjoyed The Menu, are an aspiring chef or want to expand your knowledge of films made outside of Hollywood, then Hunger is for you. But if you haven’t had anything to eat in a while and are looking for a quick hit, keep scrolling on Netflix.