Contemplative cinema is not for everyone. The extended takes and minimal dialogue can be tedious. Without the proper skill, this technique can test the viewers patience. And that’s how I felt on the first half of this film.
The script delivered but also has it’s misses, like when they’re walking from LRT 2 to LRT 1, Isa said he’s making her late for her midterm exams. But why are they taking a leisurely stroll? Sure the professor comes in late, but should they stop and capture a ‘symmetry’ of the Manila roofs down below?
Also, the whole conversation felt forced. It was trying too hard with the Kurt Cobain and John Mayer exchange, telling viewers that these two have hipster tendencies, but it was too conscious of what it wants to say, and thus felt awkward. We’re looking for subtleties and nuances of conversation a la Celine and Jesse in their Before series. These two are too pabebe in their mannerisms of/and speech.
It’s not entirely bad though. The colour scheme sets the base for the film’s tone. I like the use of bluish gray for most of the setting – on the LRT and school grounds. It evokes a somber feel and worked well with Quest’s equally depressing theme Walang Hanggan.
The second half was more consistent. The built up of glances, restraints, and tension all served the ending’s revelation. As a story teller, Nestor Abrogena Jr. knows how to set up his narrative. It reminds me of the Hong Kong classic In The Mood For Love, where desire comes clashing with ethics and propriety. But unlike In The Mood’s ending, this one felt hopeful. The last words written in Isa’s script was wakas (the end). In close up, Sam tried to erase it. Then we’re given a montage of what happened post separation, she in the L.A., him in Berlin, and both looked happier than they were in the entire film.