Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Alone/Together

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

UP Fine Arts student Christine (Liza Soberano) doubles as a tour guide at the National Museum as a part-time job. Stopping in front of Luna’s Spoliarium, she informs her guests that the artwork has inspired a variety of works in different mediums, including a misspelled single from the Eraserheads called “Spolarium”. Pre-Med student Rafael (Enrique Gil) begs to differ and gives her a copy of the album as proof. A friendship is formed and quickly blossoms into young love. Naïve and still idealistic, the two of them plan their lives together while enjoying the moment, with the possibility of not ending up together not crossing their minds even once. She wants to hone her craft through internships in several museums abroad with the backing of her stellar academic record. He wants to be a successful doctor but seems lost in the moment. Five years later they are no longer together, until one day they meet once more.

The story is your typical tale of second chances, of lovers parting and meeting again. Many versions of this narrative have already been immortalized onscreen, with setting and circumstance tweaked for an attempt at a fresh approach. Alone/Together is no different from those that came before it, which encourages you to look at the other aspects the film has to offer for it to stand out. In this regard, the director relies on the love team to accomplish what the rom-com template could no longer give.

Soberano does most of the heavy lifting here as far as acting is concerned. This is not to say that Gil has nothing to offer. Such setup is just the consequence of the script given to them as well as the storyline of their characters. This is Christine’s journey, if anything. Rafael is obviously just there for support and is used as some sort of plot device to make her realize some harsh truths about life. As such, Soberano gets the opportunity to really shine and prove to the world that she is not just a pretty face. She can act.

The second act unfolds in New York, where they seem to have relied on guerrilla filming as always. The museum interior shots seemed improvised and most of the shots are done outdoors. They do not distract from the main storyline, though, and it is a good introduction to the city as a good venue for the arts to those who haven’t been there yet. Other than that, it could have been replaced by any other culturally rich city and is not that crucial to plot development.

The setting being UP Diliman brings about a wave of nostalgia: AS Steps, Ikot/Toki, Chocolate Kiss, the Blue Book, Fishballs, Sunken Garden, etc. The list goes on! It’s also good to see a less popular course chosen such as Fine Arts, although one can argue that they only did that so they can justify the New York scenes. In any case, it brings you back to the university days when everyone still feels this certain type of brash idealism telling you that you can change the world, until you get out of college at least and realize that it's a totally different world out there.

And that’s where Alone/Together succeeds. More than a tale of love and second chances, it shows you how people evolve. For those who are still in their younger years, it’s a warning that once realism and practicality kicks in, they might not be able to recognize who they once were anymore. For those who are older, it brings about a reminder that we were all young and full of dreams once, and that idealism need not die as we grow up and get more jaded. In effect, a healthy balance between the two is key to survival.

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