Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Rewind

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

For married couple Mary (Marian Rivera) and John (Dingdong Dantes), it was love at first sight. Their love story begins at primary school and continues to grow stronger through the years until it ends in a marriage proposal followed by a whirlwind romance leading to family life. Blessed with a piano prodigy for a son whom they name Austin (Jordan Lim), it should be happily ever after for this family of three, but life just happens. There are career promotions to pursue and childhood grudges to hold. After a vehicular accident claims Mary’s life, John is visited by the electrician she hired to install lights for his surprise birthday party, a guy named Jess (Pepe Herrera) whom he mistakes for Lods, his son’s moniker for Jesus Christ. But is he really? In any case, he grants him a favor so he can go back in time to save his wife, if he is willing to die in her place.

How did Rewind end up beating the other nine entries at the box office, by a wide margin, at this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival? Does this mean it is the best movie of the 10? Not necessarily. Rewind left every other entry in the dust because Star Cinema understood the assignment and followed the formula to a tee: a family friendly movie that will leave its audience feeling good as they leave the cinema. As a moviegoer, I did leave the cinema feeling good. As a frustrated storyteller, though, I have some thoughts.

The idea behind the MMFF has always been to generate cash by zeroing in on Filipino families flocking the metro’s many malls during the holidays by making them watch a movie. Whether your film entry is a slasher flick, a sexy comedy or a feel-good drama with a rehashed storyline, as long as that family leaves the cinema on a cinematic high, then that’s MISSION ACCOMPLISHED for you. Rewind ticks all the boxes. Big names as headliners. A good balance between drama and comedy.

As for the acting, both Dantes and Rivera deliver. The display of emotion is genuine, perhaps because they are a real life couple and so the dilemma of the film hits close to home. I am just disappointed that Rivera’s Mary somehow ended up being more of a supporting character because in the end, the story revolves around John. With Dantes already given a lot of opportunities to work with many film outfits through the years, I guess I was just hoping that Rivera would have been given the brunt of the heavy lifting as far as acting is concerned. We’ve already seen Dantes in such a role many times before. Rivera, on the other hand? Not that much.

It seems to be a collective inherent defect of ours, as a species, to dwell on past mistakes and fantasize about going back in time to correct them. The premise is not new. Playing it safe, Rewind does not go bonkers like what The Butterfly Effect did to traumatize us two decades ago. Instead, it settles for a singular time jump. All this time-hopping is a mere storytelling device that serves as nothing more than a metaphor for grief. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Acceptance. Most of the time, these narratives end on a bitter but realistic note, because in reality the only way to get over grief is to move on with your life.

This is why it is a bit surprising when Rewind suddenly throws a curveball which, although hinted at, you wouldn’t think they'd actually pursue. Reliving a day in the past could be a creative metaphor for grief, teaching your audience that they can take as long as they want to grieve, but life always moves forward. And so should they. By introducing a switcheroo twist, Rewind totally ends up in the realm of fantasy because in real life, when a loved one is at the brink of death, there’s no such thing as bargaining with Jesus, the doctor or Chuck Norris to take you instead. It doesn’t work that way. What message is Rewind trying to convey, then?

Sometimes, we lose sight of what is important and do not realize what we’ve got until it’s gone. This is so common that it has already become a cliché, yet doesn’t make it any less true. My interpretation of that twist ending is that it’s yet another metaphor for a loved one’s capacity, or willingness, to make a sacrifice play. While such a dilemma is mostly hypothetical in real life, it does make your audience reflect whether they are capable of such a selfless act as proof of unconditional love. Even then, reality or fantasy, the core message of appreciating what and/or who you have before it’s gone, remains.

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