What’s good, what’s bad, what’s meh at the MMFF

By Menchu Aquino Sarmiento

Movie review
Directed by Paul Soriano

THERE ARE several love stories going on among the attractive bunch of young people populating this light romantic romp, but the main object of director Paul Soriano’s affections is the island of Siargao, best known for its amazing surfing. Surfing celebs Luke Landrigan and Wilmar Melindo appear in the film as themselves. After the end credits, the stars do a public service announcement on preserving Siargao’s beauty by caring for the environment. There are scenic drone shots of its natural wonders — lush jungle foliage, fiery sunsets, golden sand, and aquamarine surf — and also an abundance of tight shots of trim, tanned human physiques, sleek abs, for both male and female, and tons of cleavage for the latter. After all, being at the beach is a good enough reason to get nearly naked.

The film’s protagonist Diego “Jig” Punzalan (Jericho Rosales) has a sister, Karen, who runs clean-up campaigns on Cloud 9 Beach. Jig joins her in picking up plastic litter but he is actually a rock star. After a public falling out during a concert with his band mates which streamed live on social media, he decides to temporarily retreat to his family home in Siargao. His mother (Suzette Ranillo) is ecstatic at having him back although she worries he won’t stay long since he brought such a small bag. There’s a nice Pinoy touch with her showering kisses on her favorite son’s shoulders and arms.

The older son Kuya Step calls Jig their parents’ Golden Boy. No resentment simmering beneath the surface there. Kuya Step is so laid back that he doesn’t begrudge their late father’s leaving a commercial lot solely to Jig, even if Kuya Step himself has a young son to raise, while Jig is a carefree bachelor. Their mother is eager to use Jig’s inherited property to expand her resort business, but he is in no hurry to decide what he wants to do with it and keeps her in limbo.

Like a godling, Jig’s bedroom has been preserved in his absence while Step and his young son sleep on the living room floor. Jig throws out the boxes of childhood memorabilia which his father had kept for him, ordering his mother not to retrieve these from the rubbish heap because they just clutter up his bedroom. All that notwithstanding, he’s supposed to be a really nice guy.

While Jig sees Siargao as a refuge from an intrusive press and multitudes of fans (he has almost 2 million followers), Laura Molina (Erich Gonzales) is out to exploit the island’s many attractions to boost her social media presence. She is a vlogger who unabashedly uses her personal life, mainly her relationship with her devoted boy friend Mikey, to stoke her 22,000 followers. However, Laura has commitment issues, and Mikey’s surprise marriage proposal falls flat, to the disappointment of many of their followers. The solo trip to Siargao might establish her as a social media personality in her own right.

Gonzales plays it perkily straight and cute. She never delves into the gold mine of rich comic possibilities of her character’s clueless narcissism which would have been a more interesting path. Instead she seems like an overly eager-to-please tour guide or children’s party hostess, boringly brimful with earnest sincerity and with no mitigating sense of self-irony.

Early on, Jig lazily makes a move on Laura but she knows he still has feelings for Abi (Jasmin Curtis-Smith) who admittedly inspired all his songs. Yes, Kuya J sings and plays the guitar here. Jig and Abi used to be the LTNB (Love Team ng Bayan) till he moved to Manila to further his career and she got another boy friend, making her TOTGA (The One That Got Away). Curtis-Smith is one of our finest young actresses and one wishes that she were given more to do.

Anyway, there is no high drama at any point. Without giving away any spoilers, rest assured that everything and everyone ends up fine. Just like riding the waves, the characters stay pretty much on the surface. When they fall, they get back up, catch the next wave and try to stand again. If only real life were always that way.

MTRCB Rating: PG