Fan Girl (2020)

So, Netflix: we know it has a lot of content. It makes a lot of content too, but sometimes you have to really hunt down stuff, because it generally just shows you what most people like you already watch. However, there are vast tranches of strange corners of filmic production. In the UK there are loads of Scandinavian films from the silent era onwards, somewhat randomly. There is Polish and Turkish popular cinema, plenty from India, and then there are places like Indonesia and the Philippines. Every so often I watch a popular Filipino romcom and let’s just say they can be of variable quality, which is why this film by Antoinette Jadaone sticks out.

This film goes dark in ways I didn’t really expect from a Filipino movie. Its director, Antoinette Jadaone, has certainly made her share of the kind of fluffy upbeat brightly-coloured and sentimental romcoms that I’ve become used to seeing (though even among those, 2014’s That Thing Called Tadhana is, I think, one of the highlights and it’s also written and directed by Jadaone). And it’s in this candy-coloured popcorn romcom film where this one starts. It has its 16-year-old protagonist and title character Jane (Charlie Dizon) at a glossy promotional event for the latest blockbuster by Paulo Avelino, who’s playing a version of himself (I certainly hope it’s fictionalised, anyway). When she steals away in his truck, there ensues a day and evening in which her fantasising about him comes crashing to earth. It’s largely set in a dark, rather gothic home, with brooding shades of the horror film to it, as Paulo reveals himself to be a tattooed, drug-taking alcoholic with a secret child and a tormented relationship, inspiring Jane to reflect on her own difficult life and how their stories cross over. She still really wants to be with him, though, and that dangerous desire is shown to be both a positive force but also dangerous for her, and I think what’s interesting about the film is the way it negotiates all these levels of desire, and doesn’t simply craft a film that decries modern fandom or equally attempt to find something pure in it: it’s a complex relationship, dealing with the darker side of romcoms’ obsessive lover plotlines, and certainly indicates that Jadaone, amongst the popular cinema of the Philippines, is more interested in making complex films.

Fan Girl (2020)CREDITS
Director/Writer Antoinette Jadaone; Cinematographer Neil Daza; Starring Charlie Dizon, Paulo Avelino; Length 100 minutes.
Seen at home (Netflix streaming), Wellington, Tuesday 29 June 2021.



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