MEET ME IN ST. GALLEN (Irene Villamor, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Meet Me in St. Gallen:

1. It might be my limited knowledge of films (or my utter love for the series), but every time I’d see a romantic movie where the two leads just talk for hours, I immediately think of the classic Before Trilogy. It set such a high standard that anything else that remotely came close to its structure/style would (unfairly) end up as a mere copycat in my book.

This movie felt very much like a condensed version of the trilogy, except that the rambling discussions were less philosophical and more hugot-based (“Hindi ako painting na mailalagay mo sa pader”). Which would have been forgivable if it just wasn’t so… boring.

(Also, I thought that Raffy and Gela of Mr. and Mrs. Cruz would end up as this year’s most talkative characters, but I was obviously wrong.)

2. The meet cute was actually fine and it was interesting to watch the interactions between the spunky Celeste (Bela Padilla) and the more subdued Jesse (Carlo Aquino). Although it initially had that creepy stalker feel of Kita Kita with him bumping into her outside of a public restroom (where all great love stories start) and then began following her everywhere, she immediately confronted him (“Nagagandahan ka ba sa akin kaya mo ako sinusundan?”) and thankfully put a stop to this emerging love story trope that should never be romanticized.

I also wondered if Celeste would have entertained Jesse in the coffee shop if he looked like, say, Empoy Marquez so I felt amused when she was obviously one step ahead of the audience and said, “Kung di ka gwapo, di kita papaupuin dyan.”

(And totoo, sobrang gwapo lang ni Carlo dito that it made me forget he used to be part of the kiddie boyband JCS with John Prats and Stefano Mori. Wait, I meant sobrang galing. Galing, galing, galing!!)

3. I should actually hate Celeste because a) she spoiled the ending of Celeste and Jesse Forever, b) she had the gall to brag about her eight hundred friends on Facebook, c) she complained about being a misunderstood graphic artist yet made a basic layout that seemed to be a product of WordArt, d) one of her art works consisted of a pole with several hanging labada, and e) since she was an ahrt-ist, her dining table was decorated with scattered jigsaw puzzle pieces, but Bela’s such a good actress that I lapped up everything that she said and did.

4. I should actually hate Jesse because a) he asked if Celeste and Jesse Forever had a happy ending (and then complained about the spoiler, huh?), b) he sounded like a second-rate Abra that talked like Boy Abunda (“Kapag ako lang mag-isa, gusto kong isulat ang tungkol sa mga ibinubulong ko sa langit”), c) he broke several laws by answering his phone while drunk driving, and d) he cheated on Angelica Panganiban (well, not the real one, rather his fiancée in the picture), but Carlo’s such a good actor… wait, I already covered that.

5. Of course it wouldn’t be complete without a videoke session. Now if only I hadn’t recently heard and associated You Are My Sunshine with Annabelle: Creation…

6. I really couldn’t understand why Celeste would suddenly walk out of a romantic moment (“Sobrang perfect naman ng moment na ‘to. Wag natin sirain”) and then sleep with an obviously engaged Jesse four years later. Was it supposed to signal her transition from idealist to realist? Did absence make her heart grow fonder? What happened to emotional maturity?

(Side note: This was obviously a woman’s fantasy because the couple actually had an incredibly long talk in bed after having sex. And the next day, Celeste had an I-woke-up-like-this look with perfect eyebrows.)

7. All of those snowy Switzerland scenes looked really lovely. I wish I could say that I’d love to tick that off my bucket list, but definitely not after my nose almost fell off in Japan last month (and it wasn’t even below zero there).

8. Sobrang pahabol si Celeste. It took several minutes (and blocks) of endless walking and talking before she actually revealed that she already had a boyfriend. Ganda mo girl! Ginawan na ng tula ni Fidel, ngayon naman kanta ni Jesse pero basted pareho. I honestly couldn’t wait for the 100 Kanta ni Bela song hits.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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KITA KITA (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Kita Kita:

1. Where do we draw the line between persistence and obsession? Do we consider a grand gesture like asking someone out for a coffee date via a huge billboard in Morayta sweet or repulsive? If Xian Gaza actually looked like Daniel Matsunaga, would he still be considered a creepy stalker or just a determined romantic?

2. One of my biggest concerns with this movie was that after it made us fall in love with its unconventional lovers, it tried to sell us this disturbing (and Machiavellian?) big reveal that nothing was actually wrong with the couple’s predator-prey relationship history (I felt the exact same way when Maricel Soriano fell in love with her rapist in Dahas, but then that wasn’t even close to being a romantic-comedy). He knowingly took advantage of her disability, period.

It was truly unfortunate not only because the first two-thirds of the movie was deeply engrossing and enjoyable, but also because it didn’t really need any twist to come up with an interesting resolution.

I was more curious to know how Lea (Alessandra de Rossi) would have reacted after she regained her sight and discovered the true physical aspects of Tonyo (Empoy Marquez). In one scene, she even joked “Kung makita kita, baka pang-leading man ang mukha mo”. Wouldn’t it have been great to know her actual feelings upon seeing that he actually looked more like a stuntman?

3. Having said that, I was really impressed with the #AlEmpoy tandem because despite the odd pairing and clunky third act, they really made this love story work. Halos mamatay ako sa kilig sa unang Two Less Lonely People in the World montage. I swear I had this huge smile plastered on my face during that sequence. I even teared up a bit because I get really emotional whenever I see two people happily in love. Sobrang bagay sila.

4. Alessandra has always been consistently good in everything. Here, she was empathetic even as a cranky and bitter blind woman. When she cried while drawing on the eyes of the Daruma Doll to complete her wish, I was crying along with her.

The bigger acting surprise though was Empoy. He was just effortlessly funny whether he was applying breath freshener on his wrists, or mangling idioms (“The way to man’s heart is through large intestine”), or delivering a throwaway quip (“Kelangan mo ng asukal, ang asim kasi ng mukha mo”). There were moments when Alessandra looked like she was no longer acting while laughing at some of Empoy’s hilarious jokes (best one: “We have similar. Rities.”).

And that ramen scene, oh my heart!!

5. Pinoy Film/TV Trope: Any character crossing the street or standing near the sidewalk with vehicles zooming by has a 90% chance of getting run over. Survival rate of that unfortunate soul would be 10%. The victim in this movie did not beat any of the said odds. Enough please.

(Also, what happened to that sickness storyline of Tonyo?)

6. Some of the dialogue in the movie sounded off, like when Lea kept saying PG-rated lines (“Puputulin ko ang talong diyan sa gitna ng mga hita mo!”, “May nunal ka sa pribadong parte ng katawan mo!”) or sexist remarks (“Mas malandi ka pa sa babae!”). She also had this Isa, Dalawa, Tatlo voiceover during the confrontation scene with her cheating boyfriend that lasted forever. It was supposed to sound poetic, but fell flat.

7. Several scenes had poor lighting and instances where the camera kept tilting and shaking violently. What happened there?

At least those gorgeous shots in the Sapporo Botanical Garden (?) more than made up for them. I really need to visit Japan soon. Friends, ano na? The international setting was also really apt since this had the feel of a (Japanese? Korean? Thai?) rom-com.

8. For a blind person, Alessandra’s eyebrows were always on fleek, no?

9. Sigrid Bernardo is one of my all-time favorite local directors. If you end up really liking this one, you should also watch Ang Huling Cha-Cha ni Anita, Lorna, and her short film Ang Painting ni Tatay. I loved every single one of those (all five-star films, sadly her streak ended here).

10. So all this time I thought that “nomo” was actually gay lingo (or jeprox slang) for “inom”. I had no idea that it was an actual Japanese word that meant “let’s drink”. Nyeaaaaaaaam!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆