Thursday, September 20, 2018

Fernandez: The bandwagon of depression: A review on The Day After Valentines

Reel Time

PISTA ng Pelikulang Pilipino is here and the first movie on my to-watch list is Arnel Barbarona’s Tu Pug Imatuy. However, because of schedule conflict and because it was only Gaisano Mall of Davao for now, I decided to first watch Jason Paul Laxamana’s The Day After Valentines. I learned a little bit about Baybayin, a little bit about Hawaii, and a little bit about depression.

The film’s main theme revolves around depression and I was hoping that it would delve deep into this sensitive issue. But even in the beginning, Kai (JC Santos) seemed to not have a very deep reason for being depressed – his breakup with his ex-girlfriend. But who am I to judge? Depression is indeed not about how severe or light the reason is and we have no right to invalidate other people’s feelings.

But I gave the film the benefit of the doubt. I was hoping that it may provide the audience with deeper insights as to what causes people depression and self-inflicted injury. However, the movie didn’t show that. Instead, I was given “hugot” lines delivered as metaphors of mundane topics, like fixing broken things. It has a lot of one-liners that may have been inspired by memes and tweets or otherwise trying to inspire memes and tweets.

So, I reminded myself that I am just watching a fun “hugot-hugot” movie with depression as its topic and tried to enjoy the film as it is.

However, there was a glitter of hope somewhere in the second act. The movie has a special way of storytelling that slowly reveals bits and pieces of information until the audience can later on figure things out.

One of the revelations about Lani (Bela Padilla) seems to lead to something more meaningful about the topic of depression. But it was another letdown.

I was thinking the movie is aware that it was just a typical melodramatic film riding the bandwagon of depression and just wants to keep things that way.

There were a lot of film elements in the movie that were commendable though. One of the notable details is how the audience can learn Baybayin along with Kai. Baybayin also somehow symbolizes people suffering from depression, where a little mark could easily give it a whole different meaning. This is the same as the language of Hawaii, where “aloha” could mean hello or goodbye. As shown in the places they visited in Hawaii, the origin of things could have multiple layers, which closely reflects the story of Lani.

The cinematography is also layered. The first act uses a lot of hand-held shots, showing the instability of the characters. But in the second half there were more steady shots, which let the audience feel the peace, reflective of what the characters also feel. Or maybe it was to deceive the audience into believing that the characters are doing fine on the surface. Then it went back to shaky, hand-held shots in the third act. There were a lot of other symbolisms present in the film that that are trademark expected from Laxamana.

Perhaps it is in the symbolism that some of the important explanations of depression are delivered. Like battling your own demons as symbolized by the Akua Inu. Or how layered “broken” people are.

It was directed well by Laxamana, which is the reason why I chose it to substitute my first PPP choice as I particularly liked his 100 Tula Para Kay Stella. Bela and JC also had nice performances. But I can’t get over the fact how the story evolved.

Instead of just saying how “broken” they are in the dialogue, the movie should have portrayed some really messed up things that the characters can potentially do. And the audience who are broken might appreciate it if they find some concrete resolution to how the condition was handled in the film. The filmmakers behind this could have taken the chance to let the audience learn more about depression to have a better understanding of this issue. But of course, it’s a venue used for entertainment. (Ej C. Fernandez )