Same Same but Different (Dir Detlev Buck) is a German film based on the incredible true story of Benjamin Prüfer, a German backpacker in Cambodia (David Kross) who quickly falls in love with a young prostitute, Sreykeo (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk).
Very early in the film Sreykeo is diagnosed with HIV, and the focus of the film becomes Benjamins struggle and desire to support her and her family, and to get her proper medicine. He is torn between his life in Germany and his love for Sreykeo. He has no money and needs to find a way to continue his life with Sreykeo or decide to abandon her completely.
For a film with such a heavy subject matter, the creators managed to steer clear of a dark and hopeless tone; in fact, much of the film is devoid of any emotion at all. I felt like I was just watching these events play out, and nothing is over dramatic. Once the film gets past the halfway mark and we start to get in to the juice, I started to feel for the characters. However it never really hits me in a way I would expect it to. It is not sentimental at all. This serves to make the film feel very real, but also serves to reduce its emotional impact on the viewer.
The filmmakers let us see a bit of what everyday life in Cambodia is like. Overcrowded, poor, dirty, but somehow still charming and full of soul. It provides a social commentary on the way Westerners exploit the locals in third world countries. This is in contrast to the scenes in Hamburg, where life seems very cold, serious, and loveless.
Actor David Kross plays Benjamin expertly, and Apinya Sakuljaroensuk has an incredibly believable portrayal of Sreykeo. These young and relatively unknown actors hit it out of the park.
Worth a watch if you’re looking for an unconventional movie with an incredibly unique love story; something off the beaten path. If you’re looking for something sappy, steer clear.
Same Same but Different is now out on DVD from First Run Features.