By Zsarlene B. Chua, Reporter
Directed by Veronica Velasco
THE PAST few years have seen a glut of Filipino romantic films — from comedies to dramas to everything in between — and with their sheer number, it isn’t hard to predict tropes as old as time that they will use: they meet, they fall in love, they argue, they break up, and they may or may not get back together again but either way they become “better versions” of themselves after the affair.
We get it, Filipinos love love stories, but with all the choices out there, what would make a romantic film different? Put in Climate Change and the millennial generation’s anxiety about the general welfare of the planet. And put in houseplants. And rocks. This, my friends, is what Mia is all about.
Mia by Veronica Velasco starts off with the titular character (played by Coleen Garcia) and her boyfriend (played by Ms. Garcia’s real-life husband, Billy Crawford) celebrating their anniversary with the boyfriend giving Mia a bromeliad, telling her that like his love, bromeliads are notoriously hard to kill. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for the boyfriend as he dies in a freak accident moments after he gives Mia the plant.
Mia turns to alcohol and frequently gets blackout drunk, which is an amazing feat because her day job is that she is a doctor volunteering in a small town in Palawan. How she gets drunk until the wee hours of the morning and still manage to treat patients a few hours later is, frankly, a superpower.
In one of Mia’s blackout episodes, she meets and sleeps with Jay (Edgar Allan Guzman), a forester and rock collector. While Mia doesn’t remember a thing, Jay remembers a lot and is smitten with our little drunkard, following her around and asking her out on a date.
The short summary makes the film sound like a generic romantic-comedy, and in some ways it is very formulaic, but Mia’s charm lies in on how Ms. Velasco weaves the issue of Climate Change into the film in a manner that is anything but subtle. I mean, how can it be when every sequence has Jay talk about how mining destroys forests and how to properly reforest forests? Also, Mia has a houseplant she talks to and almost kills with too much care, which is apparently a millennial trend signifying the generation’s anxieties about Climate Change and capitalism according to The New Yorker.
“[T]here’s something mesmerizing about this chronicle of ‘plant parents,’ in which you’ll see a string of lovely, cheerful millennial plant owners attempt to bring a spirit of slow caregiving to the digital systems that make us sad and twitchy enough to crave this very spirit — ideally in a form that can be contained in a nice ceramic pot,” the April article (“The Leafy Love Affair Between Millennials and Houseplants”) read.
Another thing to note about the film is its non-linearity: audiences are seeing the world through Mia’s often wasted eyes and in many scenes, the viewers are left scratching their heads because the aftermath of what Mia probably did the night before has come knocking in the morning — like the one-night stand with Jay and Jay’s family knowing everything about her without her remembering when or what she told them.
This writer, who doesn’t drink alcohol, felt enlightened about what “blackout drunk” really means through this film.
But this film isn’t perfect: the pacing could be better and some jokes don’t land. Ms. Garcia also doesn’t look convincing as a drunk but she does try. Mr. Guzman, while a good actor, sometimes fails to live up to his nerdy character’s kilometric lines (it does sound like he is reciting what he memorized at times). The story itself isn’t groundbreaking but the treatment of it entertained me.
My biggest takeaway from the film is how to recognize bromeliads a mile away (I now know that many bromeliads decorate the perimeter of Maxims Café in Resorts World Manila) and that if ever I get an hankering to collect rocks, I shouldn’t pick one up haphazardly because it may just turn out to be arsenic.
Mia is currently showing in cinemas nationwide.
MTRCB Rating: PG