Thursday, July 9, 2020

Through Night and Day


Neighbors Jen (Alessandra de Rossi) and Ben (Paolo Contis) have been a couple for 13 years, knowing each other and growing up together in the same neighborhood for more than two decades. The time has come for him to finally propose. It has been a long time coming, and he plans to take her with him to New York after the wedding so they can start their married life there. She has her reservations, wanting to pass the bar and become a lawyer as well as the reluctance to leave her father behind. The two plan an intimate wedding and he surprises her with a trip to Iceland instead, her bucket list destination where they plan to make their prenup video. As they go on a roadtrip around the country, they begin to realize that despite being together for more than a decade, they still don’t know each other that well. Three years later, he comes back to Manila already engaged to someone else. This is probably the last time he will ever see her again.

I had expectations. The trailers make it appear as though this would just be your typical deconstruction of a love story while taking advantage of a beautiful country. In this case, Iceland. However, there was this lingering thought that it can’t be all there is to it. And so, we reflect. What is it, then? 1/2 of the couple is secretly dying? Third party? An excursion in the guise of a romantic comedy? The first half is your traditional rom-com slash field trip. The second part slaps you with a plot twist you already thought was coming, realized that it probably wouldn’t, only to discover that it actually will.

I felt a bit scammed by the plot twist somewhat, because then the expectation is that this is going to be so cliché. On the contrary, the second act is so beautifully and sincerely acted with lots, and let me reiterate, LOTS of crying. However, in spite of taking a sharp turn from romantic comedy to sappy melodrama, the plot ends up highlighting that other aspect of a relationship people usually gloss over in favor of romance: Companionship. That platonic bond two people share. Perhaps this is where Through Night and Day really succeeds. In being realistic, it refuses to be a formulaic chick flick, even when it somehow is.

De Rossi has been acting since she was young and has been a darling of the indie circuit since then. The girl is a seasoned actress who has not allowed her career to be pigeonholed as the industry normally dictates. It is because of this that whenever she makes a film, whoever is paired with her tends to fade into the background. She is a character actress, not a star. This performance is just another addition to her collection of well-performed roles to date.

That does not happen here thanks to Contis, who also started out as a child actor and known mainly for comedy roles but brings the relevant acting chops to the table, effectively complementing his partner’s performance. Who knew he can cry that well? And by this, we don’t mean that kind of ugly crying technique that most dramatic actors rely on to court acting nominations, but rather that type of heartfelt crying that does not border on overacting and gives you just the right amount of feels. Again, sincere.

Long story short: Through Night and Day had a theatrical release in 2018 and flopped hard at the box office. Considering the film buff that I am, I did not even know this movie existed, which probably means that Viva didn’t even make an effort to market it that well. Two years later in the middle of a pandemic, it starts streaming on Netflix and becomes popular on the platform overnight. When you see it, it won’t be that hard to know why, and it’s not really because of Iceland, although it does add a little something extra.

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