Two Filipino Romcoms Directed by Women: That Thing Called Tadhana (2014) and I See You (2017)

There actually seems to be a large number of Filipino films directed by women, especially along the more commercial, mainstream end of film production. A swathe of comedies and romcoms have filtered through, in particular, to Netflix and much of them have a light, fluffy tone and likeable lead actors (who may be the same ones as we see in the serious arthouse festival dramas, but playing much different characters). Some are fairly tedious in the way of such films, but there are plenty which reward viewing and provide a rather likeable distraction from some of the more serious artfulness we associate with the Philippines and its cinema.

That Thing Called Tadhana (2014)

A deeply likeable and sweet Filipino romance film, which starts with a meet-cute in Rome airport — though, bucking convention somewhat, our heroine Mace (Angelica Panganiban) is immediately stand-offish and prickly. Indeed, it takes quite a bit of time before she even gets towards any warmth of feeling for the guy who helps her out (JM de Guzman). Of course, it turns out she has her reasons, all of which come out as the two of them journey back to the Philippines, and then on to a number of other towns. The two work nicely together and the film never falls into a completely saccharine mess, thanks largely to Panganiban’s performance, which balances frostiness and warmth very well. (“Tadhana” appears to mean “destiny” by the way, and there’s a cute little animated heart-and-arrow theme that winds its way throughout.)

That Thing Called Tadhana film posterCREDITS
Director/Writer Antoinette Jadaone; Cinematographer Sasha Palomares; Starring Angelica Panganiban, JM de Guzman; Length 110 minutes.
Seen at home (Netflix streaming), London, Sunday 18 August 2019.

Kita Kita (I See You, 2017)

It’s fair to say that things happen in romcoms that should not ever happen in real life, and that very much would not be charming if they did. There’s no end of lauded and loved romantic comedies that revolve around creepy obsessive behaviour, but the genre — or perhaps more to the point, the likeability/desirability of the actors, and the fact that as recognisable actors they must be non-threatening somehow — means we often give them a pass. I don’t know the actors in this film because I’m not really very familiar with Pinoy film culture, but they are indeed very likeable: the young woman Lea (Alessandra de Rossi) is working in Sapporo, Japan, and has a Japanese boyfriend, while the young man Tonyo (Empoy Marquez) is, er, well he’s been watching Lea from afar and hits up a relationship with her when she goes temporarily blind (yes) due to stress from the breakup with her boyfriend. That feels like a bit of a convenient plot device to be fair, and the film then loops back after a significant event two-thirds of the way through to show how the two had known each other for much longer. I’m not convinced it makes his behaviour any better, but the film is committed to being sweet and innocent about the whole setup, even as it also explores some darker terrain usually outside the standard romcom format. Honestly, I quite liked this film, and I liked too the way it explored these two expatriates getting by (or not) in a foreign country, but it ends up being a different film from how it comes across on the poster.

I See You film posterCREDITS
Director/Writer Sigrid Andrea Bernardo; Cinematographer Boy Yñiguez; Starring Alessandra de Rossi, Empoy Marquez; Length 95 minutes.
Seen at home (Netflix streaming), London, Wednesday 21 August 2019.



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