As a sort of penance for not having been on here for a while – and for not having been watching much the past couple of weeks – I’ll indulge in some personal details which I associate with this film.

The film was released in 2017. Back then I was still in college, nearly out of it, and dating a girl whom I’ll refer to as M. I remember that year they promoted this film at the UP Fair, and, having seen and loved Dominic Roco in his other indie endeavor, Ang Nawawala (2012), M and I immediately set out to watch it.

Alas, as with most indie films, when the film was released it was given only limited screenings, mostly at indie venues scattered around the metro. It was almost graduation season by then, and my schedule was filled to overflowing with work, requirements I had to complete. Add to that, my relationship with M had come into a rocky phase, and in the few opportunities that our schedules finally matched, we were likely in a fight or ignoring each other. We ended up never seeing the film.

Copyright © TBA Studios

Finally getting a chance to see this thanks to TBA Studios uploading it online for streaming amidst the community quarantine, naturally the very first scene was met with a rush of memories that had only tangential significance to the events of the film itself. But maybe it’s the distance, the temporal abyss that now separates who I am now and was back in 2017, but by the final scene I felt, in a word, underwhelmed.

Plotwise, the film concerns Carson, a UP college student (if ever aliens or future generations tried to understand our culture through indie films, they’d probably make the mistaken conclusion that all Filipino college kids were UP students) who is finally graduating after a much-delayed seven-year residence in her social work course, played with the vulgar charms that just seem natural to Maja Salvador. That seven-year stint in college apparently also coincides with a seven-year infatuation for her supposed bestfriend Dio (Paulo Avelino). At this juncture, Carson has decided that with her graduation, the time has come for her to graduate as well from this infatuation.

Copyright © TBA Studios

But circumstances, as films have time and again taught us, rarely, if at all, coordinate with our human intentions. Dio invites Carson and another friend, Jason Ty (Dominic Roco), to come to La Union for an indie music festival at the beach. Carson, willing to go over and beyond always for Dio, drops everything and runs, even though coming with Dio on this sudden trip would mean risking not making it to her own graduation ceremony.

The rest of the film’s runtime revolve around this detour to La Union, where Carson must finally decide whether moving on is really the right decision, or whether there just might be a sliver of chance that she and Dio could become something more. The stuff of romantic comedies, really, but what sets it apart is the deft handling of director JP Habac and co-writer Giancarlo Abrahan. The depth of Carson’s emotional struggle is expressed in longing shots on the beautiful beaches of La Union, inside the melancholic dark of hotel rooms, and bars abuzz with meaningless conversation. In La Union, the trio attempt to navigate through an increasingly messy sprawl of emotional tangles, literally at the edge of their world, where ultimately they must decide whether to continue on their emotional escapism or come back home to face their realities.

Copyright © TBA Studios

Nevertheless, I find myself somewhat underwhelmed with the story. In a nutshell, Carson’s conflict is merely her inability to speak out the nature of her feelings to Dio, a friend she’s had around for seven years, and one can only take too much of her drunken complaints before coming to the question of why it has taken her that long in the first place? Especially when, in the thick of the plot, at the critical moment, it doesn’t take too much to get the truth out of her. The reveal, and the conflict that comes out of it, ultimately feel unearned.

Have I harbored too high expectations for the film, for how long I’ve had to wait to watch it? Or have my perspectives somehow changed drastically in the span of three years? All I know is that I was expecting a whole lot more from the film, only to be given an hour and a half of story that ultimately hangs on some artificial cowardice. Cowardice that exists only for the sake of plot.

Published by Dominic Dayta

Dominic Dayta is a statistician and short story writer. His fiction has appeared or are forthcoming in The Brasilia Review, Philippines Graphic, TAYO Literary Magazine, and Liwayway. He lives in the Philippines.

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