Here’s the second part of our report on ‘Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino 2018’ in which we cover The Day After Valentine’s, and We Will Not Die Tonight. The 2nd edition of PPP runs from August 15 to 21 in Philippine cinemas nationwide.
THE DAY AFTER VALENTINE’S
I’d like to fancy The Day After Valentine’s as an alternate reality for Jason Paul Laxamana’s previous PPP film, 100 Tula Para Kay Stella, for the obvious reason that it features the same pair of leads. Am I giving away the ending because of this comparison? Not really. This is the type of film where it implicitly tells you in the beginning to abandon all hopes of getting a happy ending. Despite this, the film surprises you with a mixed bag of emotions in the end.
Told in a non-linear fashion, the film kicks off with Lani (Bela Padilla) and Kai (JC Santos) meeting in a nightclub several months after not seeing each other. The film goes gently on feeding the details – the two clearly have a history but for some reason, Lani is gauging the situation, playing scenarios in her head that won’t happen. She’s clearly not on the same page with Kai. Then goes a full arc of flashback leading to that moment. The backstory can be simplified to this: a manic pixie girl fixes a heartbroken boy but in a twist of events, the girl is actually broken too. Now back to present: Will the boy do the same for the girl?
Having established a melancholic tone, watching The Day After Valentine’s, for the most part, is anticipating how Lani and Kai’s relationship will go sour. The film touches on the subject of depression as seen on Kai’s self-inflicted wounds and on a lighter side, the process of healing and moving on from someone. Lani initially assumes the role of a repairman in their dynamic and as the two eventually get closer, lines get blurred and labels become undefined.
Kai teases Lani to get real with her feelings but she urges him to profess his feelings first. “Huwag mong ipasa sa’kin yung decision dahil ayaw mong mag-commit,” she says. Uh oh. This starts to feel like a classic case of a Bela Padilla character playing hard to get. (See Meet Me In St. Gallen).
But the reason why Lani is acting strange is that she has bigger scars to hide. Her character development outside Kai only gets explored by the film a little late in the game. Things take a darker turn and we finally see Lani for a broken person that she is.
It’s not a perfect film. The script is affecting yet it needs polishing on some of the elements that don’t work well in the whole context. Most of the plot holes are related to Lani. She’s artsy, smart and well-versed in English but her current job – a thrift shop attendant – does not fit to her profile. Also, how can she afford a trip to Hawaii? She ought to have multiple side jobs but doing homeworks for lazy highschool students is the only thing disclosed here. Then there’s the Baybayin gimmick, which is still a welcome addition nevertheless.
The leads give a great performance as expected. JC Santos can gather copious amounts of sympathy once he starts on with his puppy eyes. While Bela Padilla has mastered portraying characters that carry an unexpressed amount of pain. At this point, I would like to see a different side to her in the future. The soundtrack does well in evoking the range of emotions needed.
The Day After Valentine’s might come out as puzzling at first but once the pieces are laid out, the whole experience should fit together. The sentiments of its characters are not spoon fed to the audience, the film delegates the task of letting them think the rationale for Lani’s and Kai’s actions without getting too vague. Once they get into the psyche of these characters, the film reveals that there are plenty of takeaways here apart from the dangers of unlabeled relationships. Above all, this is a film about healing.
Written and directed by Jason Paul Laxamana
Cast:Bela Padilla, JC Santos, Regine Tolentino, Jay Castillo, Stacey Gabriel, Phoebe Villamor, Rayton Lamay, Merwyn Abel, Aries Go
Run time: 115 minutes
3.5 out of 5 stars
WE WILL NOT DIE TONIGHT
Richard Somes’ We Will Not Die Tonight is an outright B-movie distraction for those who are seeking to satisfy their bloodlust. A financially-struggling stuntwoman Kray (Erich Gonzales), along with her friends, accept an illegal gig to meet their ends, thinking that it’s just a usual drug delivery assignment. Turns out, they’re are actually dealing with human traffickers wanting to harvest internal organs from street children. From the miscommunication, a fray ensues and Kray steals a kid during the commotion. A deadly game of hide and seek transpires through the night.
With very little story to tell, I am left to scrutinize the technical aspects of the film and they aren’t particularly good either. Excessive warm color grading, bad dubbing, out-of-control fast cuts and close-up shots – everything work in unison to make this film look like a hot mess. The musical scoring awkwardly shifts from pulse-pounding to melodramatic, not taking advantage of silence as a tool to ratchet up the tension.
As for the frenetic action, what easily stands out is an impressively staged stairwell fight sequence but apart from that, majority of the whole film is confined in a decrepit condominium. The production design eventually becomes overbearing for the senses. There’s no sense of geography here, characters keep on climbing the stairs yet they seem to be hiding in the same room.
Apart from Kray herself, the rest of the characters are dispensable players, written thinly as their motivations to survive or kill. The villains are painfully artificial. They yell obscenities and strut the hallways with their best hooligan impressions. At least The Purge films lets them wear cool masks.
The recently released BuyBust definitely comes into mind since both films follow a ‘mission gone wrong’ storyline. But where BuyBust ends with a strong social commentary, We Will Not Die Tonight puts on a facade to have meaning. The only advantage this film has is that Gonzales packs harder punches than Anne Curtis.
This is a tough attempt to boost the resurgence of action in local cinema but even mindless entertainments need a serviceable plot. This one does not have a strong backbone to begin with.
Written and directed by Richard Somes
Cast: Erich Gonzales, Alex Vincent Medina, Thou Reyes, Max Eigenmann, Paolo Paraiso, Jeffrey Tam, Jess Mendoza, Sarah Jane Abad, Marella Torre, Nico Dans, Ayesha Arreza
Run time: 105 minutes
1.5 out of 5 stars