Marty (Enzo Marcos) and Sally (Rhian Ramos) first meet in high school when she steps up and gets back at the bully making his life miserable. They have become inseparable since then. As best friends. But he wants to be more than that, despite her remaining oblivious to the fact. Just when he finally musters the strength to admit his feelings before graduation, she surprises him with her own announcement. She has a boyfriend. Nick (TJ Trinidad) is buff, a decade older, and has a cool job. Marty sees him as a nuisance, literally a giant dickhead blocking the way to his best friend’s heart. On the contrary, she sees him as her ticket out of the miserable life she has to deal with back home. As Marty becomes the couple’s secret messenger, he begins to visualize a story for his comic book gig based on the real-life heartaches he is experiencing, a tale of unrequited love amidst monsters terrorizing the world.
It’s the imagery that really gets you. It’s neither pure animation nor live action, but rather a good mix of both, and the result is total eye candy. It would have been awkward given the difference in rendering that the two styles would involve, but the end product is just so harmoniously whole and visually enticing, like watching a moving comic book replete with characters that are as colorful as the world they live in. You won’t see a lot of films crafted in such style nowadays, which is kind of strange given the graphic appeal of the material. Perhaps that is the reason why it’s always a pleasant viewing experience when one finally comes along after a while.
The story is a simple take on being friend-zoned, and dealing with it like being waitlisted for college, hopeful that if someone backs out you’d be the first in line. This is not an acting showcase either and there is nothing groundbreaking about it, but the storytelling is the real star here. Its creators obviously didn’t have dollar signs floating above their heads when they were creating this masterpiece. If anything, it really feels like a passion project that needed to see the light of day, and aren’t we glad that it did?
Most of the dialogues are in English, and the few Tagalog lines come accompanied by subtitles. In a way, it creates some coño kind of vibe given the school setting, but in the end you realize that it’s actually good foresight for a potential market abroad. Come to think of it, the theme has widespread appeal. Who hasn’t been friend zoned in this lifetime? There is always that one person who got away, along with an interesting anecdote to back it all up. Saving Sally capitalizes on that collective experience and creates a visual treat that is just so pleasant for the eyes.
It’s unfortunate how some bashers are chiming in criticizing the film and how it took more than a decade to make it, and yet the animation is so-so. Maybe they are expecting something in the same vein as Pixar or Disney, which are full-on animated features from big budget companies. They have obviously chosen the wrong movie. Saving Sally is far from perfect, but it’s that imperfection that defines its awesomeness. Besides, it’s not that hard to fall in love with the universe they have created, some sort of weird Metro Manila with monsters lurking around. The scenery is drowning in cute metaphors which are not really that hard to grasp. It’s actually quite clever and artistic at the same time.
You do not have to be a geek to appreciate this movie, but it does require imagination on your part. The unique Filipino touch makes it a perfect recommendation for friends abroad asking for a good specimen of Philippine cinema. It is not a total showcase of Filipino culture per se, but there are enough bits strong enough to be representative of it. Even so, it won’t alienate a foreign audience thanks to the relatable premise. Overall, this is one of the better MMFF entries this year. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be the last of its kind. A promising future awaits Philippine animation, and giving Saving Sally the opportunity to take part in the festival this year will help a lot in making that future shine brighter.