Saturday, November 11, 2017


After five years of friendship and seven years in a relationship, Erika (Alessandra de Rossi) and Anton (Ivan Padilla) are calling it quits. He is angry and wants to salvage whatever is left of their ending romance. She is decisive and assures him that she just needs to find herself. They then spend the rest of the day reminiscing about the good times and the bad, alternating between laughter and tears in an effort to come to an understanding that will leave both parties satisfied. But when you've spent more than a decade of your life sharing everything with one another, there is just no way for an easy goodbye.

De Rossi is a natural. Her mood changes do not seem forced and you can read her emotions through her eyes. She does not need to get all hysterical just to prove a point. We know what she is feeling and we are convinced that she is not acting. The same could not be said of Padilla, unfortunately. He has brilliant moments where you can identify with his rage, but his acting somehow lacks consistency. There are scenes where his reactions and abrupt change in mood feel all too rehearsed and awkward. Perhaps it's the language barrier that got in the way? In any case, it's not that bad. The duo has onscreen chemistry alright, even though it didn't seem to have been effectively maximized. 

The material seems more suitable onstage. This is a film where the two leads do nothing but talk for two hours straight. It probably wasn't that hard to shoot. The couple just move to a different part of the house every time there is a change in scenario. In fact, there are only two scenes filmed outside, both of them in the car. As such, one can easily imagine an all-around theatrical set that can be used to complement the feeling of intimacy that a theater readily provides. The more intimate setting would be beneficial because it will make everything feel as though you are just listening to two friends on the verge of a breakup. Watching it onscreen just gives off some dragging kind of vibe. 

Yes, the house. Is it wrong to appreciate the house more than the story from time to time? I just can't help but notice how nice it is, and then I realized, maybe the house deserves its own billing. After all, isn't it the very place where Erika lost her identity? As pretty as it may seem, it actually served as her virtual prison, and is thus symbolic to say the least. 

The transitions are cool because they utilize visual triggers that are believable when it comes to recalling a memory either good or bad. Imagine when you suddenly catch a glimpse of a certain object or view that makes you recall a memory just like that? The film manages to capture that real-life moment and perhaps it would be difficult to do so in another medium such as theater. There is also that scene at the dining table when the aunt calls them on the phone and Erika breaks down out of the blue. That closeup of de Rossi's face and the rawness of the emotion conveyed is probably the best justification for the narrative to be showcased as a film. 

It's just that for film as a medium to work, at least for a mainstream audience, you really need strong plot development and some tropes to make sure that they are hooked. What happens in 12 is that we witness a breakup in medias res, filling us in with the background story with the constant shuttling back and forth between past and present, set in the same house differentiated by the actors' different hairstyles and contrast in terms of cinematography. Perhaps that is one of the film's strong points, but not everyone will appreciate such non-linear type of storytelling. 

But then again, the abundance of dialogue makes it feel boring for the usual Filipino moviegoer who usually relies on hysterics for him/her to give a damn. In the end, 12 will probably find a niche market that will appreciate it for what it is: two hours of heart wrenching talk between a couple in the midst of a breakup. No hair-pulling. No kilometric lines that make you cringe. Just raw dialogue between two people who have fallen out of love. In a nation used to sappy romantic comedies that always end happily, appreciation might just be hard to come by. But we laud the cast and crew for the effort. While cinema is being used more and more to show us what's ideal, from time to time we also need to watch a reflection of what is real, and that is where this movie succeeds.

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