Wednesday, November 19, 2014

CinemaOne 2014: Review of THAT THING CALLED TADHANA: Where Broken Hearts Go

November 19, 2014

Last year, the only film I got to see at the Cinema One Film Festival was "Shift" a romantic comedy set in the world of call center agents. As luck would have it, I would again get to catch another romantic comedy in this year's 10th incarnation of C1 Originals. This film comes well recommended, having won the Audience Choice award and the Best Actress in the awards night last Sunday. (It was just too bad that I would not be able to catch the Best Picture winner, "Violator" by Dodo Dayao anymore since it was given an unholy 10:30 pm slot on the last day. Let's hope it gets a regular run.)

Mace Castillo was desperately trying to deal with her excess luggage at the Rome airport when when a total stranger Anthony Lagdameo gallantly offered to help her out. Both of them are recovering from recent relationship break-ups. That chance meeting led to watching "One More Chance" on the plane, a drunken videoke session in Manila, a random trip to Baguio City, and a breathtaking sojourn in Sagada. Does destiny have something up its sleeve for them?

This is another one of those "maindie" films, an indie film that looks mainstream. The story of this film is a very familiar, very basic rom-com staple plot we see in many mainstream flicks. The director Antoinette Jadaone just had two consecutive hit mainstream movies released before this one "Beauty in a Bottle" and "Relaks, It's Just Pag-ibig". Angelica Panganiban and JM de Guzman are popular mainstream film stars.  

The success of this film is in the very engaging performances of  its stars. Their delivery of their lines are so effortlessly natural. The chemistry they had with each other was so sweet and electric. That moment when they were singing a sappy Whitney Houston song was memorably hilarious despite its backstory. That bus stopover scene where Mace would relate everything Anthony said to an event with her ex was so well-played out. 

JM de Guzman has a good boy-next-door appeal, which was why we were surprised with his recent personal problems. It is fortunate that he seemed to have overcome these issues because he is a very good young actor. I only knew him for heavy dramatic roles on TV, but he was quite the ideal choice for Anthony here. He had a kind face that Mace (and the audience in general) knew she could trust. Loved that scene where he was deciding whether to put his arms around Mace or not.

But honestly, this film belonged to Angelica Panganiban. As Mace, we fall in love with her kooky personality and winning smile. We feel her pain and anger, everything was so real. All that discussion about the merits of John Lloyd Cruz as the perfect leading man is simply so precious, knowing their personal relationship off-screen.  She wore her heart out on her sleeve with a performance so raw and unpretentious, yet so charming and moving, our Audrey Hepburn. The Best Actress prize she won is not a surprise (although I still have not seen Sharmaine Buencamino's much-talked about performance in "Lorna" yet).

Likely, that is why it won the Audience Choice award. Unlike most indies, this one had wide mainstream audience appeal. It was only during really long quiet moments in the middle or in the expletive-riddled dialog (though cute the way Angelica delivers them) did it feel like an indie film. The story is completely relatable and brought to life with pithy witty words and delightful disarming performances. I do not really watch rom-coms, Pinoy or foreign, but this one was very good.  I think I want a sequel. 9/10.

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