Festivals, Reviews

Cinema One Originals 2019: ‘Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo’ — On Synthetic Romance and Unromantic Synthesis

There is not much to be said about a love story that has neither love nor a story. But maybe it’s deliberate, maybe the point of the film is that our definition now of relationships has been so distorted that you don’t need love to call it one; or that love alone is not enough to sustain a relationship. But maybe it’s just lifeless filmmaking and casting JC Santos is not enough to deem this shell of a movie the love story it thinks it is.

At first you can’t quite put your finger on it, why the movie feels so cold. Moments post-breakup are interjected with scenes from earlier in their relationship, but even at the peak of their romance the chemistry is wilted. It’s not an inherently bad film—Jane Oineza, 1/2 of the titular Tayo, never missed a cue; but somehow that’s the biggest gripe I have with the film. Her laugh is a little too perfectly timed; the light almost always a tad too bright; the sheets too deliberately wrinkled; their dialogue a little too on the nose, with Oineza saying the title of the movie by the end as if tying it all in a neat little bow. Technical perfection was given priority over authenticity, and the end product was clinical and squeaky clean, in all the ways love isn’t.

The story was not made to be related to, but to pander to an audience. The protagonists were templates, blank etch-a-sketches where we could project our own tales of love and loss. Its will-they-won’t-they narrative rested on the shaky personalities—or lack thereof—of the couple, who neatly represented two ends of a spectrum: the girl was bossy and the boy was chill, the girl wanted in and the boy didn’t. For a film about messy love, this coldly went from point A to point B, bolstered by a static camera and a detached screenplay. How many times must we endure screenplays that, upon close inspection, are actually just a collection of hugot lines?

Hugot culture, however, is not solely to blame for the failure of the film—I, for one, am proud to be a participant of a fad where we all just hopelessly fall in love all the time, ironically or unironically—but when our sentiments are appropriated and manufactured as products sold back to us, devoid of the intimacy and specificity and genuineness that make it so endearing, so universal in the first place, it loses its gravity. Love has been reduced to romance, and now romance has been reduced to its theatrics. The party’s over—hugot culture has been commercialized and this sanitized, misplaced festival film is a manifestation of the fact.

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