Ugyen (Sherab Dorji) is a teacher currently serving his fourth year out of a five-year contract. He lives with his grandmother, enjoys singing, and hopes to one day move permanently to Australia. You see, Ugyen is bored of teaching. He feels like his work is uninspiring and unmotivating. He decides to make a meeting, hoping he can cancel his contract and move to Australia. Ugyen’s request is denied, and instead, he is forced to work somewhere else entirely new since he feels unmotivated.
Ugyen is sent to teach in a small village known as Lunana. Lunana is a place that has no internet, no power and no real luxuries. On top of this, the only way to reach Lunana is by foot, and the journey will take a week. Naturally, Ugyen is not impressed by the painfully awful change. With no other choice, he packs his bags and begins a new chapter of his life, starting with the journey of getting to Lunana. Once he arrives, will Ugyen discover something new about his work life?
Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom doesn’t tell an overly new story, and the outline even feels somewhat basic. A man has lost his way and lacks motivation, only to be forced in a new direction for the greater good even if he doesn’t know it straight away. However, what makes this film different to the norm is the stunning surroundings such as the villages, locations, sceneries and most importantly, the talented leading cast carrying the film’s heart.
Thanks to the director Pawo Choyning Dorji, viewers will enjoy the stunning visuals that feel like we are sharing first-hand the experience with Ugyen, including the long and painful journey to make it to Lunana. The film is insightful with its locations and experiences, including how people learn to live in different conditions that others may claim would be unbearable. It’s a great concept that had my attention and investment, and I was smiling while watching Ugyen make obvious discoveries deep within. Right from the start, everything about this film feels touching and authentic, and only the third act holds the movie back, making it feel far longer than it really is.
Overall, while the story is familiar and somewhat basic, I was still significantly touched. Everything on-screen feels highly authentic. Characters are likeable and pleasing as they bring this drama to life. Visually this film is a stunner, and audiences will make discoveries relating to surroundings and sceneries. It’s a heartfelt journey that’s certainly enjoyable.