What we loved and hated about Nestor Abrogena’s ‘Tayo sa Huling Buwan ng Taon’

May 15, 2019 – alike Editorial Team

Is it still okay to be friends with your ex? (yes, you are free to react. No judgments here.)

Quite a tricky question to ask especially for someone who is already in a relationship but, to be honest, it really is interesting to know what people has to say about this.

Speaking of exes, Sam (Nicco Manalo) and Issa (Emmanuel Vera) are back for the sequel of “Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa” which was first released in 2015. Set five years after since Sam and Issa broke up, they are now back on the big screen—not as a couple, but as two individuals living separate lives with their own newfound partners. 

Sam is now in a relationship with his co-teacher, Anna (Anna Luna). A sweet, modest, and easygoing girl who was definitely favored by Sam’s mother and brother. She teaches and writes literature.

On the other hand, Issa got back with her mysterious boyfriend from “Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa,” Frank, who is played by Alex Medina. Yes, we finally get to meet him. Frank is a private plane pilot who eventually quits his job to fly to the US and live there with Issa. It was shown in the first film that the two had a rough patch but now, it seems like they are finally okay. 

“Tayo sa Huling Buwan ng Taon” shows us how the two found comfort in the arms of another—Sam got into a relationship with Anna while Issa got back with her boyfriend, Frank. They looked quite happy and contented with their own relationship—attending family dinners and gatherings together, sweet cuddles at night and even planning on moving out and living together. 

This is where we see a mature version of Sam and Issa, both making bold choices and decisions in their own lives and in their relationships as well. It really shows that 5 years really has passed and a lot has  changed—or maybe not?

The alike team weighs in three different perspectives on “Tayo sa Huling Buwan ng Taon,” exploring what will make you love or feel disappointed about the much-awaited sequel:

The breakup and going back to the elements of the first film

After 5 years, Sam and Issa unexpectedly crossed their path—in confusion they seemed like they both saw a ghost in each other’s eyes—a long eye to eye conversation that only the two of them can understand.

This is what I love about Nestor Abrogena’s works. It feels like everything is so pure and real—from their nuances up to their unsure exchange of words. It gives us that awkwardness and tension that one would feel when faced with this kind of circumstances. Abrogena lets silence linger as a way for us to digest everything—not only for the viewers but for the characters as well. 

After that perplexing encounter, both started to exchange DMs, talking about how has it been and of course, sharing things about their partners (which is kind of awkward). This is the part, where eventually, I felt a tingle somewhere inside me. Asking myself, is 5 years really enough to be able to be friends again with your ex, after a rather ambiguous breakup? Apparently not.

In the film, the two ended up eating at a local food place and even strolled around the streets for a walk. They came across El Hogar, which would probably ring a bell if you have seen the first movie. El Hogar is a building in Escolta that was set to be demolished before, which is why Issa was surprised to see it still in one piece after 5 years. 

I think El Hogar represents their relationship. Going back from the first film, the attempt for the demolition of the building was mentioned when they were walking along LRT 1, where Issa seemed already confused on whether they should continue their relationship, and break up with Frank or not. Now, after 5 years, the building is still there, however, the inside is already empty—its grill works are no longer there, no staircase to be seen, and a lot more things were taken out of the building. What was left is probably just the façade, like what Sam described in the film.

Sam and Issa, like El Hogar, really changed a lot after the breakup. Yet, we cannot deny that there will still be remains of that relationship after it collapse—especially because they weren’t able to end things in a nice manner. Sam’s emotions exploded when he finally wasn’t able to contain his feelings, which he was probably been keeping ever since.

This is where things fell short. It lacked build up which, to be honest, startled me instead of making me emotional. Everything happened so sudden and it was the only scene where I felt iffy. Although, I did appreciate the humor that they somehow injected on that scene.

“Tayo sa Huling Buwan ng Taon” shows us how these people deal with their emotions when hit by uncertainty and vulnerability—which we probably all can relate to. 

Life really sometimes surprises us with such things that are quite complicated and abstruse which often leads us feeling confused and scared. However, at the end of the day, we all have choices to make, no matter how easy or hard it is. This film gives us that freedom to ponder on what might happen next. Still together or not together? Go watch and decide.

— Diane Gundaya, Staff Writer

Moments of tension and silence

The movie dwells on the reality of relationships and human emotion. The cinematography of the film successfully projects the heart of the story. The framing and lighting depict what the characters are going through at the current moment. Warm light was used to show how Sam was having a good and fresh start at the beginning of the film. The wide shot also shows how free and light he feels. You could feel the warmth of scene. In contrast, there is a shot of Issa at a staircase. It is a wide shot but she is blocked in between the stairs which gives the feeling of being confined. 

The scene where they meet again shifts the mood. Their first shot together goes quick into a tight long take that revolves around them. The shot takes us to their perspective, the feeling of seeing your past suddenly appearing in front of you after how many years. Tension is felt with a bittersweet touch. The lighting of that scene fits the moment as well. The light show is dazzling, at the same time the scattered lights showcase how the characters feel at the moment—surreal yet emotions flying everywhere. Long takes are done as well to show the gravity of reality. In real life, moments take time to make. It could feel fast once it is over but while it is happening, you are just there and nowhere else. 

The editing bridges the parallelism of Sam and Issa. At times you will think they are just beside each other when it turns out they both have their own separate lives already. Even if they both are not together anymore, we could still feel the connection they used to share. Two moments happening at the same time which turns out to be different moment.

The silence used speaks louder than other scenes. It is during these moments in the film you could see and feel what Sam and Issa are going through. You get to take a slice in their life. The simplicity of the execution grounds you to reality. This is how it is. Life works this way and you are going to feel this. A simple way yet with a grand effect to the heart.      

“Tayo Sa Huling Buwan ng Taon” is an honest film that showcases the reality of life as it unfolds. Every page matters, and not all moments will be filled with laughter. At the end, a changed person emerges with a heart that is full.

— Fons Sales, Cinematographer

Was it dragging a story or a dragging story?

Abrogena’s followup to his sensational directorial debut suffers the fate of most sequels—falling short to expectations and falling into the traps of cliche.

Its cast members were all notably good actors, but even the most patient of viewers can’t help but be disappointed with the bad acting that had to be endured for most of the film. As it introduces the new lives of its protagonists, the scenes laid out before us showed no natural chemistry. Nor did it offer a sense of history and familiarity between the characters on the screen—whether it’s in a romantic regard or not. 

Most of the film tried to show intimacy, but ultimately failed to make it felt. Intimacy wasn’t forged in the dialogues shared and in between the interjected laughs. However it did effectively show intimacy sparingly in some of the moments the characters shared alone and together in silence. 

Silence helped form the narrative once more as it did in “Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa.” The film honestly needed more moments like this. However, it was too concerned with establishing the “moving on” arc, dragging that plot in futility. It also abruptly introduced tension and conflict as the film neared its end with Sam’s outburst of kept emotions—those of betrayal, confusion, and desperation.

Manila continued to be a home to Sam and Issa’s unrequited love story, but unlike the first film, it was no longer a character and witness to the unfolding of their relationship. It stood more of a hollow symbol used to continue the use of a setting.

In the most part, the film’s straightforwardness can be understood. There are no shocking plot twists nor dramatic reunions—only shallow discussions and awkward acting. Again, Abrogena tried to deliver realistic romance and drama, an already overused storytelling approach in the local genre his film wishes to belong to. It feels as if it focused too much on the idea of delivering a continuation without a solid foundation as to the story’s direction. Simply put, it had no essence to precede its existence.

The making of this sequel is like the opening of old wounds: Painful and unnecessary.

—Vinz Lamorena, Associate Editor

“Tayo sa Huling Buwan ng Taon” is now showing in cinemas nationwide. Art by Pearl Antoinette Sevilla. Photos courtesy of TBA Studios.