It’s not a little known secret that a big chunk of Filipino movie goers doesn’t watch their own Tagalog films. This may sound un-patriotic but I’m part of that statistic. The Pinoy cinematic business, particularly the mainstream side, seems to be stuck on a limbo of mediocrity and plot formulas all these decades. Studios are just content to sell good-looking faces and love teams rather than offering good stories, as if the movies have to dumb down to make it ‘pangmasa‘. But the times has changed, this is the Internet Age and we can now compare movies from other countries. Man, we’ re lagging behind big time. I can’t help but think, is our film industry really this Hopeless?
But apparently there was, there is and there will be plenty of reasons to be hopeful for! Over the years I secretly watched our own films only if (and only if) there’s a strong word of mouth about a movie. So yeah I was able to witness some great films like the masterpiece “Magnifico”, Oscar hoped-fuls “Dead Na Si Lolo” and “Ploning”, the historical epic “Bonifacio” and even “Thelma” not because I’m a runner. I love this films. But I don’t think I can forgive the people who made the atrocity called “My Little Bossings”. But then came “That Thing Called Tadhana” and like a God-sent blessing suddenly there’s Hope for brighter cinematic days ahead.
The story of ‘Tadhana’ (literally translated as Fate or Destiny) is a pretty simple story about a chance encounter in an airport of two broken souls Mace (Angelica Panganiban) and Anthony (JM de Guzman). One is a recently cheated, scandalous but smart beautiful woman and the other is a mysterious young man of calculated words with a flair for sarcasm. After arriving in Manila the pair decided to set out on a road trip to the north to find their selves on the process. It’s a simple yet charismatic movie between two characters travelling and talking to each others, the entire screen time. So lower the expectation for crazy scenes and let your mind travel with these oddly paired characters. It’s an adventure to Baguio and Sagada from Italy and Manila that asks us the question “Where do broken hearts go?”
“Tadhana” is a like a smart reincarnation of one of the greatest love story ever told on film “Before Sunrise” which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary this very February! Please don’t roll your eyes because Tadhana isn’t really of prototype or a copycat Before Sunrise. Both are completely different stories, told with different tones and purposes. Before Sunrise is a film about two people looking for destiny and falling in love on a road trip. Its characters, Jesse and Celine, talked about the beautiful things in their life and how they see the world in their care-free youthful perspective. Tadhana however is a film about shattered souls looking for answers to their fates. Mace and Anthony talked about their heartbreaks and pains in life even through their ‘hugot’ punchlines. Before Sunrise is philosophical in nature, Tadhana is a smartass comedy!
There’s plenty to like about ‘Tadhana’ but perhaps the strongest of them is how incredibly written this film is. Director and script writer, Antoinette Jadaone, just pulled off the winning formula for such a small-scale production to capture the hearts of the masses and converts the doubtful by mere strength of her story. You don’t see a film mutilate ‘The’ John Lloyd Cruz (ironically Anglica’s current boyfriend to add pun to the story) and get’s away with the murder (by making him a legend). This is not a story written based on a love team, it’s based on the countless tales of heartbreaks sewn together in a triumphant harmony of punch lines. #HugotPaMore! It’s a smart, funny and brutally honest take on love and heartbreak the way we have Never seen before. For a February release, Tadhana is not a heartbreak story we need, it’s a powerful story we rightly deserve!
The acting is surprisingly top-notch. With only two characters in the movie Angelica Panganiban made a killing spree of what could be a performance a lifetime. Winner na winner si ate, grabe. She was simply incredible and spot-on as Mace the expressive, smart and talented woman whose lifelong dream shattered in a betrayal. Many would how would you react from a nasty break-up, well, Anglica’s Mace is the answer. There are unforgettable little scenes in the film were had it been delivered by a lesser talented actress would have lesser to no effect to the viewers. She just nailed them and carried the load of the film anchored by the steady presence of the nakakabading JM de Guzman. This is Angelica’s show, and she’s ‘Sya ang nagwagi’ (She’s the winner).
That Thing Called has this great story that speaks for everyone’s experience: HeartBreak. Its a moving story that celebrtes the soul-searching power of travelling and the wonders that good conversations can bring. It has a magic that leaves viewers spellbound. The amazing thing is ‘Tadhana’ has only just began! If we analyze the story, Mace and Anthony has not reached their Tadhana or destiny yet. Phase 1 pa yata to. This is only a story of how they met and opened up to one another on how they got hurt and ultimately helped each other to overcome the hurt. There are definitely plenty of rooms for sequels and spin-offs, because I believe their real ‘Tadhana’ is still ahead of them.. after all Before Sunrise went on to continue its story on Before Sunset and Before Midnight.
There’s another good thing about That Thing Called Tadhana that is keeping me excited for the years to come. I have this hopeful feeling that this movie would change the landscape of the local film industry. Now look, the film is independently produced for an indie film festival so it’s a given that the budget was very small. But the way it performed so well in the box office to the tune of P120 million pesos (oh the power of strong word of mouth), it should give the major production studios a change of perspective. We don’t have to go down to another dumber level just to make it pangmasa. Just imagine just how much money ‘Tadhana’ would make had it been marketed extensively by a major network.
Tadhana, I believe, is doing the same thing “Cape No. 7” from Taiwan did in 2008. It was a small film that captured the hearts of the island state (and Asia) and racked up record breaking box-office numbers. It changed Taiwn film industry when the studios started to trust and give more freedom to writers/directors to do their thing. The result speaks for itself as they went on to produce monstrously successful films like Seediq Bale and You Are the Apple of My Eye. Now the big question is how our local industry will react to this incredible success of ‘Tadhana’ now that there’s also money on the well-written and heartfelt stories. I hope one day directors would no longer go down to a low level aesthetically just to cater a kilig-demand, and maybe perhaps we will be able to forgive the likes of my My Little Bossings.
After a couple of screenings and a couple of fanarts, the more i believe That Thing Called Tadhana is going to live up to what Cape No. 7 pulled off in Taiwan. Both are now juggernaut indie films powered by mere word of mouth. Cape no7 changed Taiwan movie industry from a sickly to a powerhouse landmark. That's when producers started to gamble and give real writers/director free reign. The results were excellent since: Secret, Hear Me, Sediq Bale, and You Are The Apple of My Eye. These film would not have seen the day if Cape No. 7 tanked in the box office. 😢😉 will the Philippine cinema change for the better or Tadhana is just a freak of its rotten tradition?