The return of Rangoon Rick


I should begin the review of the new Myanmar film True Love with a word about its young star, Rangoon Rick.

I’m not saying I have a celebrity crush on the man, only that I see his face wherever I go and get a little shiver when I do.

I first encountered Rangoon Rick (his name is Nay Toe) in the whiskey-laced emotional thrill ride I had the privilege of reviewing last year, in which the award-winning, model-turned-singer-turned-actor played the three lead characters simultaneously.*

It was a stunning performance (especially after a few whiskey-Cokes) and afterward I began to spot the fair, round-faced dreamboat on billboards, stickers, notebooks and newspaper ads for jeans, soda pop, footballs and diamond rings.

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Jared Downing / Frontier

Jared Downing / Frontier

I began to take photos of each Rangoon Rick sighting. This turned into something of a hobby, and before I knew it I was shouting at my taxi driver to halt in traffic so my girlfriend could hang out the window to snap a photo of a Nay Toe ad on the side of a passing bus.**

Finally, while seeing Zootopia at Dagon Center, I spotted him in the trailer for his latest film. It wasn’t in English, of course, but I managed to gather two things: First, the film’s plot involved Rangoon Rick getting hit by a truck and becoming a ghost, and second, that I absolutely had to see this movie.

This is when I learned how difficult it is for a foreigner to be a fan of a Myanmar movie star.

I went to my Myanmar friend for information about this film. She asked me what film it was. I said I didn’t know the title, only that it involved Rangoon Rick turning into a ghost. After some online research, she learned it was called True Love, to be released on April 27. When the day rolled around I asked her to see it with me. She said she wouldn’t be free until the following week. I asked if it would still be on by then.

She finally said, “I don’t know, man! You’re the one who wants to see this Rangoon Rick movie!”

That caught me off guard. But of course she would be frustrated. She was right to be frustrated. For her, this information was a few clicks away. For me it was all hidden behind a veil of squiggles and hoops I have done a fantastic job of not learning to read.

In her world, people didn’t need to go fact-checking to find out the title. People knew what movies were coming out, and they knew more than one movie star. They were part of a conversation. All I had was Rangoon Rick and a damn trailer.

The sensible thing to do would be to finally hire a language coach to gain a deeper understanding of a culture and society I have been writing about for 10 months. Instead, I think I’ll just try and convince other foreigners to like Rangoon Rick. Please write in if you’re interested. We can make a Facebook fan page. It will be exclusively in English. 

Oh, right, the film review

I finally saw True Love on its third week.

When devil-may-care playboy Rangoon Rick is hit by a truck, his body lies in a coma while his soul roams free. He meets a beautiful young shade in the spirit realm, and as the two set out to restore Rick to his mortal coil, he is a living shadow, a sunbeam’s width from this world but neither heard nor understood.

It was a cracking film, filled with romance and humour and a celestial prince played by a chubby nine-year-old. I give it, by Frontier’s new ranking system, three and a half out of four Ricks:


*See: “The Adventures of Siam Sam and Rangoon Rick”
**It was the best six-month anniversary date we ever had

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