Monday, December 28, 2020



MANILA. Allan (Alfred Vargas) and Agnes (Iza Calzado) are living the happily married life with their only son. Or so he thought. Being a successful businessman, he deals with things with facts and numbers. A frustrated artist, she values emotion over logic. HONG KONG. While on a business trip, he crosses paths with a Filipino-Chinese woman who claims her name to be Tanya (Shaina Magdayao). She admits that she fancies him and begins to bombard him with anecdotes about her life in exchange for sex and connections for getting a visa for the US. After she gets what she needs from him, she disappears. NEW YORK. Agnes is now living her American dream as a promising playwright. Husband and wife reconnect as he searches for Tanya in Chinatown, but Agnes still wants an annulment. As Tanya resurfaces in his life, he tries to decide which woman would make him complete again.

I see this more as a suitable material for theater. They can play around with revolving platforms and different lighting to depict changes in setting. The effect would be probably more immediate or intimate and the audience wouldn’t probably mind the non-linear plot arrangement. As a film, though, the storytelling is kind of all over the place, without any clear indication as to which is happening at present or what not. The scenes just jump from Manila to Hong Kong to New York as if they have a quota to fulfill or something. Not everyone will get to appreciate that kind of chaotic plot development.

Or maybe it's meant to reflect the mindset of the characters? Whatever the reason behind it may be, this movie is not easy to watch. There are narratives like this that work well given the proper execution, which Tagpuan does not have. The ideas are there and the ambition is lofty, but the product does not deliver. Instead, it somehow gets lost in all the subplots it is trying to cram within its less than two hours of run time.

The Manila chapter enters typical melodrama territory more appropriate for a soap opera. The Hong Kong scenes are more enjoyable thanks to the spontaneous treatment, somehow akin to that of your anti rom coms filmed abroad. The New York scenes drown in its own confused storytelling, not entirely sure if it should stick to the established premise, provide its own rendition of the tired concept of the American Dream, serve as a not so veiled critique of Trump’s immigration policies, or all of the above.

As far as acting is concerned, it is Magdayao who gets the chance to shine thanks to the not so conventional character, at least relative to most of those she already portrayed before. The challenge however is that Tanya, or whatever the hell her real name is, simply lacks the gravitas for her character to really leave an impression. Such roles have been tackled more convincingly onscreen before with just the right amount of eccentricity for them to make an impact – think Natalie Portman’s Alice/Jane in Closer or even Magdayao look-alike Sue Ramirez’s Adela in Cuddle Weather. Magdayao does her best, but her Tanya comes across as one-dimensional, unapologetically opportunistic, and annoying.

Vargas hasn't been acting for quite some time now, and it shows. There are awkward scenes, although we can probably cut him some slack and agree that he still has it. Whatever the justification, he is defo not the bright spot in this dull movie. Calzado brings her acting chops to the potluck, but one cannot help but notice how she seems to be getting pigeonholed in this kind of roles, by that we mean the unfulfilled wife who abandons the family to find her happiness somewhere else. Her Grace did this and also fled to the States in A Love to Last. Her Liza did exactly the same thing and flew to Edinburgh in Distance. Same, same but different?

The film’s only saving grace is the paradox it turns out to be and how in trying to convince us to follow the plot, we ended up losing it, pretty much just like how the characters couldn’t seem to find whatever they are looking for. Final verdict is the material could have benefited from a different approach. As it is, boring and recycled to say the least.

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