Sunday, February 25, 2018

Meet Me in St. Gallen

Celeste (Bela Padilla) and Jesse (Carlo Aquino) meeting at a cafe after a really bad day marks the beginning of a passive-aggressive friendship. What starts as antagonistic quickly turns platonic as they converse over coffee, and later, booze. As the night progresses an opportunity for something romantic is explored, but does not quite hit the mark. A few years later, they meet again. Will it be love this time around, or will yet another chance meeting end up in regrets and tears?

What the Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight trilogy does in a span of 18 years, Meet Me in St. Gallen attempts to compress in two hours, coming up with an end product that tastes like a diet version of the original. No, this is not a rip-off, but it’s one of those movies where two people talk, have sex, then talk again. They also walk from point A to B from time to time to take advantage of the scenery. That’s where St. Gallen comes in handy. In the last few years such genre seems to have sparked a revolution in the local entertainment industry, where formulaic romantic comedies reign supreme.

Maybe we just need a break from all those mistress films where two skimpy-clad women fight over some random Eurasian hunk whose contract stipulates that he must bare his abs? Because not all of us have six-packs and not all of us are ridiculously good-looking, we prefer a narrative that might actually happen to us, and having an honest conversation about love and life with another human being seems more relatable. Most films from this genre give you that certain kind of feel as though you’re not watching a love story, but rather getting to know two people by listening to what they have to say.

Meet Me in St. Gallen is somehow caught in the middle. The storyline feels rushed and contrived because of the flash-forwards, but at the same time it gives you some sort of instant gratification. Hey, we don’t need to literally wait for years anymore because they are already showing us what is going to happen. That doesn’t do wonders for character development, though. If they discarded acts two and three and just focused on part one, then maybe we could have ended up rooting for the characters more? But then again, they won’t make it to St. Gallen. That’s what makes Before Sunrise so effective, because it’s a literal walk in the park, a long conversation that has a beginning and an end instead of three being strung together like there’s a quota to fulfill. What’s the rush?

In terms of acting, there really isn’t anything to complain about. Both Aquino and Padilla offer just the right amount of feels. Not too subtle. Not too hysterical. It’s just like watching two of your friends trying to hit it off but stumbling along the way. It can be annoying, but it’s a good study on modern human relationships nonetheless.

I wasn’t really paying attention to the ending because my phone vibrated and I got distracted. When I looked back at the screen, the credits were already rolling. And so I had to ask the couple next to me if Jesse saw someone. They said no, he just stared at the Christmas Tree. And then the girl started to get rather agit like she was going to ask for a refund. Perhaps that’s what happens when you watch a movie as a form of escapism? You get annoyed when it serves you an ending that seems a little too realistic.

In my opinion, though, such ending is just apt for the situation. If your the-one-that-got-away did so not once, not twice, but three times, then you’d probably just end up staring at some random object while scratching your head, too. The good thing about Meet Me in St. Gallen is that the plot already set the whole flash-forward thing in motion, arguably even abusing it to some extent. If you are not satisfied with this conclusion, you can just come up with your own version. A sequel is also possible. Just set it years later and trade St. Gallen for another quaint town in Europe and you are all set to milk the franchise.

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