‘Sid & Aya (Not a Love Story)’ review: Dark truths on the economics of love

Irene Villamor’s Sid & Aya is a cynical yet refreshing take on romantic relationships where economics becomes the ruling philosophy and money becomes the currency of love.

Enough of the 500 Days of Summer gimmick; Sid & Aya (Not a Love Story) is a clear-cut love story. It should be pointed out for future films—that would plan to use the same reverse psychology technique—that even tragic love stories earn their right to be called a ‘love story’ too. It’s a minor nitpick that I personally disapprove of, from which the film nonetheless benefits. Its main purpose is to divert its audiences from the traditional confines of romance and put spotlight on its more pragmatic themes. It also works as a dark foreshadowing: a seldom occasion where viewers will know better than to root for its characters, but instead, anticipate how they will sabotage their story.

I’d like to think, however, that this adamant parenthetical subtitle is a voiced sentiment from its characters. The struggle for Sid and Aya throughout the film is to constantly remind themselves of the “deal” they got themselves into: a paid-for companionship (or whatever you like to call it, save for a romantic relationship). Sid (Dingdong Dantes) is an insomniac, a power-hungry stockbroker who believes that the world revolves around money. If he sees a sound investment, he immediately bets on it, even if it means poaching his friend’s client. He thrives in a cut-throat industry, but more than anything, his hinted troubled past ripples through his present-day turmoil. He lies wide awake at night with these accumulated demons looming over his head.

Sid is the perfect vehicle for the financial exploits of Aya (Anne Curtis), a hustling breadwinner who juggles multiple jobs: being a coffee shop waitress, a laundry clerk and an amusement park performer. She rarely gets sleep too, troubled not by conscience but by necessity. With an ailing father to support, money has always been a struggling endeavor to her. Hence, she takes on Sid’s unusual proposition of being his companion during the wee hours of morning, all for the extra income. The reason why Sid and Aya immediately clicked is because they both understand how the system works: demanding for someone’s affection is not love; it’s all part of the economics.

Come to think of it, Sid’s job offer is not as bizarre as it seems. Problematic people actually pay other people to share their problems with (e.g. psychologists). What the film does is simply pushing the concept into an unorthodox territory to prove a point that most, if not all, relationships adhere to a certain cost-benefit model. At one point Aya “upgrades” their relationship from companions to actual friends at an increased rate of 500 pesos per hour. It’s a brutally funny scene. Once you get the point, it has some dark truths on it.

What seems to be a harmless mutual symbiosis is blurred with intimacy and when two attractive people keep on seeing each other, sexual attraction is bound to happen. Not to mention, Sid and Aya’s transactional relationship operates on the unspoken rule of not falling in love with each other. They try their best to abide by this code. Technically speaking, Sid is the employer and Aya is his employee. Romantic relationships between a master and his servant is a touchy subject, especially if it’s tainted with financial gain. It’s the unheard “I love yous” that prove there are social boundaries that even romantic love can’t cross.

The development of the leads’ chemistry never feels dragging or rushed, a critical factor in duo-centric films. Dantes’ portrayal of an unsympathetic jerk and Curtis’ unapologetic pixie girl glues your undivided attention to the screen. He graciously lets her take the centerstage for most parts, while Curtis, almost feels ethereal in every frame even if clad in jeans and shirts. (At this point, I must mention the fangirls in the audience who are literally adoring her face every ten minutes or so.)

As seen from director Irene Villamor’s apparent fascination for coffee shop meet-cutes and fleeting romances, Sid & Aya follows the same narrative structure with her recently-released Meet Me in St. Gallen.

READ MORE: Movie review of Meet Me in St. Gallen

With Pao Orendain’s melancholic cinematography, Villamor takes you to a euphoria with an escapist story, and in the end brings you back to the harsh consequences of reality. For its third act, the film moves to Japan and we finally get to see the inspiration behind this film. The shots of Shibuya Crossing with pedestrians surging from different directions is a beating heart in itself. In the world’s busiest intersection, thousands of people run across each other every day, yet finding a connection still comes elusive because each one is preoccupied with their own lives. This reflects Sid’s desperate need for companionship to keep his sanity in check.

Sid & Aya (Not A Love Story) ends with loose subplots and unanswered questions, not fully committing to its own theme in its final moments. Still, as one of the most cynic and hedonistic love stories I’ve seen, this comes out as refreshing. It subtly uses economics as the ruling philosophy of love and money as its currency. There are costs and benefits in telling the truth and you can only risk what you’re willing to have—because love is scarce, volatile and irrational.

4.5 out of 5 stars

About Sid & Aya (Not A Love Story)

Sid is a man who suffers from insomnia. He meets a girl, Aya, and hires her to accompany him in his sleepless nights.

Distributed by Viva Films and N2 Productions, starring Anne Curtis and Dingdong Dantes. Written and directed Irene Emma Villamor.

Runtime: 94 minutes

Prolific film producer Baby Go launches new film outfit, talents

There’s no stopping prolific film producer Ms. Baby Go in her “passion” of doing movies. BG Productions International has been in the film production business for five years but Ms. Baby Go decided to expand her business by putting up another film outfit—Global Film Production International, Inc.

According to the President of BG Productions, “BG Productions is not closing is not closing its doors to film production. We will still be doing well-crafted movies and potential award-winning movies that we will send to compete in film festivals abroad. Global Films Production International, Inc. will focus in doing commercial films or mainstream movies that also have qualities and will cater to the local audiences.”

Two new movies currently under production will be sent as entries to international film festivals. These are “School Service” featuring Ai-Ai De Las Alas and Joel Lamangan, under the direction of Louie Ignacio. This is an official entry to the Cinemalaya International Film Festival 2018 in August. Also in the finishing stage is the film “Latay” from the direction of Ralston Jover, starring Allen Dizon and Lovi Poe in the lead roles, plus Snooky Serna and Mariel De Leon playing important parts.

Also in pre-production are the respective film projects of Joel Lamangan, Mel Chionglo, Neal Tan, and Joey Romero.

Aside from putting up a new production company, Ms. Baby Go is also introducing the talents of her film production outfit. Among them are Angelo Mamay (former StarStruck finalist and host of Walang Tulugan), Jasmine Henry (half-Australian, half-Filipino and potential beauty queen), child star Celine Juan who is being introduced in “School Service,” young singer Renz Buster, and Lady Diana who can be developed into a character actress.

Also among BG’s new contract stars are Rhea Usares; the siblings Wynona Calderon (18), Woersha Calderon (15), Walline Calderon (14), Welcy Calderon (10), and Winter Calderon (7); and Jillian Angel Suan and Jordhen Suan, the siblings of Celine Juan.

For sure, these new talents will be given important roles in the movies lined up for production under Ms. Baby Go’s film companies. They will be given training through workshops and will also undergo personality development.

Meanwhile, BG Showbiz Plus Magazine is making a strong presence. The Magazine’s last issue, on which Alden Richards was the cover, was a bestseller. The AlDub fans will surely rejoice since the new issue of BG Showbiz Plus Magazine will have Maine Mendoza on the cover.