Monday, December 25, 2023

When I Met You in Tokyo


OFWs Azon (Vilma Santos) and Joey (Christopher de Leon) meet in Tokyo in not so ideal circumstances, starting off with mutual animosity. She has been working in Japan for quite some time already but it seems as though her efforts are for naught as her younger brother Marlon (Gabby Eigenmann) spends all her remittances on gambling. He, on the other hand, is annulled from his wife Susan (Gina Alajar) and finds it hard to forgive her for leaving him for another man even after all this time. As Azon and Joey continue to bump into each other almost everywhere and share their personal problems with one another, they find a reason to start anew. Encouraged by their respective friends to give each other a chance, they end up seeing each other in a different light. Thus begins a late romance, perhaps what she would like to refer to as a “soulmate”.

Vilmopher or Christilma, or whatever their fans would like to call them, need not be another KathNiel or JaDine, because once upon a time they already were. These two filled entire cinemas during their heyday, we can even argue that they were one of the prototypes of these love teams, which leads us to our next question. Why the need for a teenybopper formula? Is it because love teams of old were only given heavy drama films back then until such genre got relegated to television in the advent of soap operas? Are they trying to catch up on lost opportunities to star in a romantic comedy because they didn’t have those in the 70’s and 80’s?

Whatever the reason is is rather moot because this film does not do them any favors. For an onscreen power couple whose last movie together was two decades ago, this kind of anticipation from their fanbase will probably never be replicated, so it just feels like a squandered opportunity to not give them better material that could showcase their acting skills. Or maybe that is exactly the point? Maybe this film is just an excuse to have a reunion and have fun, fun that just pervades the cinema because you can really tell that Vilmopher, or Christilma, are having one hell of a good time. They are like two friends just enjoying each other’s company.

But then again, that does not help the movie. They are having fun alright, but the 7:15 PM screening we went to was half empty and most of those who were there were old. Observing their reactions, there were indeed giggles and light laughter. It’s cute to be honest, but the problem there is, how are you going to draw in a younger generation of moviegoers who neither know who these two are nor will give up their hard-earned peso for a storyline that they’d rather have a younger love team deliver to them? Hey, movie tickets are so damn expensive nowadays. For a film to draw in a crowd, it has to be an event, which this film is simply not.

It does not help either that the film drags on for too long without accomplishing much. There is a blink-and-you’ll-miss six-year time jump that is just mentioned in passing. It’s a genuine WTF moment because Japan is probably the best place to do a flash forward montage through the gorgeous cityscapes of its four seasons, but no, they really opt to just tell you, hey it’s been six years. Since the initial subplot is resolved early, the ending also comes across as a dead giveaway. Pun intended. And so you are there just watching it all unfold at a glacial pace wondering whether you should wait for an ending that you can already smell from a mile away.

Since I don’t really want to rain on Vilmopher’s, or Christilma’s comeback parade because I love them and they are just so adorable, perhaps one good takeaway from this movie is that love stories between sexagenarians and septuagenarians need not be depressing and gloomy all the time, and this film does a good job in showing us that. However, given the mundane nature of such narratives, creativity in exposition and storytelling is really key to capturing your audience’s attention, creativity that this movie unfortunately doesn’t have much of.

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