Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Dito at Doon


Len (Janine Gutierrez) mulls over her time during community quarantine by committing her thoughts on her social media channels. Bored and wondering when things will go back to normal, she attracts the ire of some netizens who believe that her rants are coming from a place of privilege which not everyone gets to enjoy. One of the commenters is Caloy (JC Santos) who engages in a word war with her, arguing that for essential workers like him, it is not really an issue of choice but rather survival. As she logs in again, the two of them meet once more by virtue of their common friends via video chat. Their debate rages on but soon they make amends and become internet buddies, calling one another to share their daily lives on lockdown and even developing some degree of infatuation. But can a blossoming online relationship transition smoothly offline once the pandemic becomes a thing of the past?

A few years from now when COVID becomes just another seasonal cold or flu, we will look back at the corpus of films produced to tackle this specific point in recent history. Luckily, Dito at Doon is one of the better entries in this growing filmography tackling our communal misery. While marketed as your typical romantic comedy, what stands out in this narrative is the honest look at the current situation, as if presenting a thesis on human relations at a time when it is risky and mostly forbidden.

Some of the dialogues come across as annoying, not because they are baseless, but rather because they echo our present reality. Watching Len and Caloy argue about the pros and cons of this lockdown feels like a summary of comments from various strangers that you read on social media. Everyone has an opinion nowadays but not everyone is not on edge. This often results in unnecessary altercations that worsen the situation. Dito at Doon puts a twist on that by turning enemies into friends, and maybe even more.

One gimmick is to have the characters appear in one setting despite only meeting online most of the time. It is common for a scene to start with a video call only for the other party to appear next to the person on the other end of the line. While such technique tends to appear a bit gimmicky, it does establish some sort of symbolic argument about the paradox that is social media, a tool crafted to foster convenient communication but serves more nowadays as an agent of division and almost always ends up provoking a superficial semblance of togetherness that is mainly artificial in nature.

More than the romance angle, this is what makes this film interesting. Are the relationships that we have that are primarily online in nature as good as those we have offline or are we just trying hard to substitute genuine interaction with the convenience of modern technology? This story shared between Jen and Caloy is a good case study for that and leaves a lot of room for rumination.

As for the political angle, perhaps it just could not be prevented. Cinema is often utilized as a mirror of reality and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of inaccuracies as far as the depiction of the current situation is concerned. The movie doesn’t shy away from displaying the psychological and socio-economic effects of this prolonged lockdown. It seems too close for comfort now because we are still in this situation, but five or ten years down the line, this film will serve as a good reminder of this gloomy chapter in history.

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