February 22, 2019 – Diane Gundaya
As soon as the first teasers of this film came out, people online were stoked about it, particularly the LizQuen fans. Yes, it is the love team’s comeback film but what really made people gush about it was its UST-UP love affair aspect.
You might ask why the UST-UP love affair has transformed into a big deal. Well, there is this certain notion nowadays that UST students are the ones who, in millennial terms, “ghost” people that they are currently dating. Basically, “ghosting” means abruptly cutting off all communications you have with a certain person whom you are seeing. Apparently, there are a lot of instances where UST students are accused of doing so. Some would say that it is because of the workload in the university, but that mystery is yet to be solved (probably in another article).
Since the social media world was saturated with so much teasers and assumptions for the film, days before it is finally released, I tried to hinder myself from watching the trailer and teasers posted online. The only thing that I watched was the video of Enrique and Liza trying out the UST and UP cheers.
(RELATED STORY: He said, she said: A UP-UST couple’s thoughts on ‘Alone/Together’)
Antoinette Jadaone is known for her unique yet relatable characters from Mace in “That Thing Called Tadhana” who was trying to go somewhere to mend her broken heart; to Joanne, a girl working in an advertising agency who was full of ambition until she fell in love, which made her change her priorities in “Never Not Love You.”
This time, it’s about a UP student named Christine (Liza Soberano), who dreams of becoming a museum director but eventually struggles to achieve it because of problems that come up along the way.
One thing that is quite common among Jadaone’s characters is that they are messed up. There is no organization in terms of how they think, how they present themselves, and in how they come up with decisions. But the messiness of each character as they journey to self-discovery—and eventually acceptance and healing—is what makes them relatable and believable.
The film started with a significant reminder that is probably not just applicable in art but is timely for the state of our society nowadays. “We must never forget,” a young Christine (Liza Soberano) reminded the schoolchildren when they visited the National Museum in which she volunteers as a guide on weekends, explaining to them about the story behind Juan Luna’s “Spoliarium.”
The tension soon arises when a pre-med student from UST named Raf (Enrique Gil) corrects Christine when she was talking about the Eraserheads song. Raf insisted that the title of the song is “Spoliarium” and not “Spolarium.” This argument sparked a romance between the two from their college years to when life became complicated for the both of them.
Everything was doing fine for Tin and Raf before, but their relationship was tested by certain scenarios which led to their breakup. After 5 years, the two were reunited and this is where the succeeding events fell short.
AFTER 5 YEARS
Five years is a long time to begin with. However, when Tin and Raf saw each other again after a long time, there was no tension. It was as if they only haven’t seen each other for a week or so. Raf approaches her, without any hesitations, asks her to meet up with him again to iron things out. It felt like there was no past between the two of them. Undeniably, the two looked really good together but they lacked tension that the whole story requires. Among all the characters from Jadaone’s films, this one felt like everything was unnatural. It seemed like it was still Liza and Enrique, not Tin and Raf.
“TRAYDOR ANG MGA ALAALA”
Yes, Tin’s story is relatable especially to those who struggle to pursue their passion. Many people don’t go for the arts just because they are afraid to do so, but there is something about Liza’s portrayal that lacked that very passion.
Raf, who eventually fulfilled his dream of becoming a doctor, lacked the doctor vibe. The struggle that he went through when Tin left her was not evident. That is why, at some point, it gives an idea that maybe he never really loved Tin that much because it didn’t show—it lacked sincerity.
The film emphasized that memories are traitors. They make you remember things that are not there anymore. But in the case of how Tin and Raf’s story was presented and portrayed, it did not seem like their memories betrayed them. It looked like they were just living the moment instead of being haunted by the things that reminded them of each other or the memories of them being together.
I felt like the story was rushed. It wasn’t able to fill the gaps between the what ifs and the what nows. The need and motivation for Tin to arrive with the decisions she made could not be found. Her character being an over-thinker who overanalyzes everything fell short—she tried but it was not convincing.
What I did love about the story was how Tin started to come out of her comfort zone and just do things according to what her heart desires. This, perhaps, is the most touching part of the film. The hardships of pursuing art is no secret in a society that thinks of it as a waste of time.
The film tells you that you should not let your fears and doubts hinder you from doing what you really want. Sometimes it is not what other people say that really discourages us. Most of the time, it is our own selves that hinder us from taking the first step.
The whole film could have been better if it is focused more on Tin’s self-discovery and journey amidst everything that happened to her without highlighting the love story aspect because to be honest, it didn’t have that great of an impact.
I just want to commend Neil Daza, the cinematographer of the film, for showing such beautiful shots which elevated the storytelling. In true Jadaone fashion, the director successfully injected another piece of reality and experience in her body of work—how a girl who is in constant doubt learns to go out and wade through the uncertainty of life. It was the part of the story that deserved its own standalone film.
Never mind the UP-UST love affair aspect (and maybe the character of Raf, too) which honestly wasn’t tackled. The hard-hitting reality the film tried to show would have thrived better as “alone” and not “together.”
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