There has been a slew of romcoms and romantic films this year and in all fairness, a lot of them have been really well-crafted. So, how does one stand out now among all these hugot movies and Before Sunrise wannabes? This is where Kung Paano Siya Nawala comes in—the sophomore film of award-winning film and TV commercial director Joel Ruiz starring JM De Guzman and Rhian Ramos. Both actors are also on board as producers in this project.
From the trailer, Kung Paano Siya Nawala sells the premise of a male protagonist with a so-called face-blindness—a clinical condition of which one cannot recognize people’s faces. Sounds unbelievable? The film uses an ingenious analogy with dogs. For example, you saw a bulldog today and see it again the next day, would you recognize if it was the same bulldog? Now, it all makes much more sense and I hope I’ve piqued your interest enough to know more about this film which is now my personal favorite of 2018.
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Joel Ruiz shares that this project has been brewing in his head for over five years now and has been working to have this film made for the past four years. I dare declare—it is definitely worth the wait! Just the fact that its lead stars love the film so much that they co-produced this project already says a lot about how invested they are in this material. The final product: A sincerely genuine love story that I have never seen, told in this way ever before in Philippine cinema. I have nothing against hugot films or two character talky films, but aren’t you already fatigued by now by all these other romcoms and the like that almost seem alike? In this one, the storytelling style feels fresh and grounded while the character portrayals are so lived in thanks to the excellent performances of both leads.
Ridiculously talented thespian De Guzman plays the role of Lio, short for Cecilio, which means blind (it's a screenplay device trivia from its writer-director). Due to his disability, he has difficulty establishing tangible human connections or even just keeping a job. One of the brilliant scenes in the film is about him relating how kids didn’t want to play ball with him coz he keeps passing the ball to the wrong person. It’s pretty hilarious but at the same time it gives you the gravity of the pain he carries with him 'cause of his condition. De Guzman breathes life to his character by creating an inwardly charming fella with the emotional baggage of boulders. He eventually lets down his guard when he gets to meet Shana, another equally beautifully flawed character just like him. Shana, short for Darshana, which means sight, is played by another of this country’s best actors, Ramos. Her alluringly enigmatic portrayal of the free-spirited Shana provides a good contrast to De Guzman’s Lio—resulting in an undeniable chemistry rarely seen in Philippine cinema. In addition to his condition, Lio also has to live with his somewhat disfunctional family with Agot Isidro as his manic depressive mother and Barbara Ruaro as his obnoxious yet endearing lesbian of a sister. Despite their personal character flaws, they’re the perfect example of a family that supports each other without judgment. There is one face, though, that Lio would want to forget permanently, which is his father’s. His dad had left them during his early years, adding even more to his character’s emotional burden.
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A warning though, the pacing of the film may not be what you’re used to in mainstream cinema as it takes its time in the establishing the first act. But as the second act kicks in—the strongest act for me—it brings you the kilig that the usual audience expects. It's just not in the usual way it is usually served in romcoms, but in its own peculiar way of making you feel like a spectator in whatever situation Lio and Shana are in. It also does not rely on the usual theatrics that are expected in the formula of mainstream dramas, it rather presents you with tidbits of subtle emotional beats that linger longer in your soul even after leaving the cinema.
With the premise of face-blindness and the intriguing character sketches thrust over just a month left in 2018, I dub this as the best Filipino romantic film of the year. A lot of my friends who have also seen it seem to agree with me. If you don’t get to catch it in the usual theaters, I’m sure this film will have its own following in the micro theater circuit like Cinema 76, Black Maria,. and Cinema Centenario, so make it a point to not miss out on it. Swear, this is not sponsored.
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Photos taken from Instagram.com/kungpaanosiyanawala