While we anticipate Liza Soberano's big screen return as the high-flying and iconic superheroine Darna, Black Sheep Productions is supplying us a healthy dose of the talented young actress via another movie. And this film, thankfully, isn't rooted in mainstream-familiar corn and cheese. Alone/Together, written and directed by the mythical Antoinette Jadaone, is rather subtle and poignant. It's been equally awaited by the public no matter the taste in cinema (you know what we mean!), with cinephiles squealing over it as a Liza movie over a LizQuen one. And boy they're right!
Now, on to the grading! (Spoiler alert, of course!)
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For starters, the UP Diliman references: The bluebook, the Sunken Garden, the Shopping Center, the Lantern Parade, Vargas Museum, Chocolate Kiss, A.S., and a few more. These fill the exposition of the narrative, expectedly adding nostalgia to anyone who has attended the state university. +2
Realistic in their pockmarked faces and greasy hair, Liza and Enrique's characters are unashamedly lovey-dovey in public. Yes, this happens in UP grounds. Gross, but here's a +1!
Art Studies major Tin also gets into an intellectual conversation with her professor (Nonie Buencamino), while reciting her dreams of going abroad to gain knowledge and then returning to her motherland to impart her wisdom. Her mentor tries to shush him with "Dayuhan ang makinabang sa yo? Que horror!" The UP professor's cynicism equals 3 pts!
These UP references don't necessarily make the movie a masterpiece, as we think they're just meant as props and as necessities for the setting. The real UP "fix" threads into Liza's character as Tin, the once-idealistic Iskolar Ng Bayan whose big dreams of becoming a museum director hit the road after she gets implicated for her former superior's crime. She moves on in life with that smear on her credentials, with just the same on her dreams. So, +1 only.
Tin and Enrique's character Raf meet at the National Museum where the former works as a guide. In particular, over an argument at Juan Luna's famous "Spoliarium"—whether it's spelled the same or differently with the Eraserheads song. Raf makes his second move by handing her a CD of the Sticker Happy album. We're giving +4 for the retro references and LizQuen's indescribable chemistry! Plus 2 on Tin keeping Raf at bay, after returning to the museum to catch her again. "Halata," she quips. (Insert strong-white-independent-woman memes here!)
The quick exposition abruptly switches to the current time. Whoever still thinks this is the usual, linear kind of narrative is proven wrong by now, with Tin trading her unsophisticated look from her college days for this fine and sleek woman she is now. She is seemingly holding a grade-schooler of a daughter near, who turns out to be the kid of her boyfriend Greg (Adrian Alandy). Greg, though, compared to the rest of the characters, is the usual caricature of a villain—spiteful as an uptight CEO and jealous boyfriend. -2
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On the other hand, Raf is now a doctor, so successful he receives a The Outstanding Young Men awardee. He is also taken in the romantic department—and this we realize when the Tin and Raf's new girl Aly (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) stand next to each other, capturing their special someones on the stage using their phones. Ingenious product placement of the brand, we guess? +0
Some think it's Tin's expressiveness adding depth and maturity to her character. She does have a lot of crying scenes, even blurting out a malutong 'T*ng ina!" as she retells Raf about what happened back in her first job. But we think it's her other scenes that truly mark Liza as an evolved actress—more on this later. +3
Upon Raf's (flirtatious) words of encouragement, Tin gets a chance to fly to New York and stay there for two days as part of her corporate job. There, after passing through The Met aboard a car, she rethinks and then finally musters the guts to ask Greg if she can stay a little longer. Her wish is granted. And the human part of the story—the inevitable cheating arc—commences. UGH. We abhor cheating in any form, but +2 for this turn of events!
Raf flies to NYC, too—and divulges this to Tin in the cheesiest way possible. Thank God there's no kiss involved here or else, two-digit deduction we'll give! Giving this scene -4.5. Once they reconnect, off they stroll in the city acting like a couple. "Mahal," they even call each other like before. We're giving +.5 for this hint of Lost In Translation—survivalism and alienation indeed give way to the motto, "Misery loves company."
New York also doesn't really provide an essential addition to the thick of the story, but is obviously there to be a romantic backdrop. It's also where Tin meets a fellow Filipino, who just happens to be an artist-turned-car dealer. (Tin obviously projects herself into her.) No points here. Just sayin'.
The city only receives tension once Raf proposes to a cuddly Tin at Central Park. With his medicinal career-revolving principle "Gawin mo na ang dapat mong gawin, habang nandyan pa—habang nandyan ka pa," he removes Tin's glove and makes her wear it. They kiss briefly, with teary-eyed Tin then taking it off only to declare that the whole thing has long been over. That they both need to wake up to this new reality of not being together. Enter: JM De Guzman sexily crooning Rivermaya's "214." They come home to Manila with this in the background. +3
[related: In Focus: 12 Of LizQuen's Most Kilig Instagram Captions For Each Other]
Over a one-way conversation at dinner, Tin finally breaks up with Greg. In one night, she seems to have regretted whatever act of decision-making she has recently. She suddenly wants to explore art archiving again, and—get this—go back to Raf. The doctor, of course, is furious and confused after everything that's happened. Aly's pregnant and I have to go, he finally reveals. Tin is petrified. 'Tis a dramatic scene that we know we need to invalidate Tin's tendencies of using people, so +2.
Here's the part Tin redeems herself. She resigns from her position with Greg. She, despite the ghosts of her past, then seeks a job she can truly call her dream. Of all this, she metaphorically and literally lets her hair down. She does give her former UP porma a spin, as if a nod to finding the child in her again. Amazing symbolism. +4!
The strong women of today will surely prefer this over the usual romantic films just because the lead role is a she, surviving without a prince no matter how distressed she is. Tin is now working at the National Museum, a fulfilling turn to back up the UP alumna's reawakened sense of patriotism. +2
To wrap the film up, a scene reminiscent of Sana Maulit Mulit's ending (we know right!) transpires at the steps of the Museum. This, sans the two major characters sharing a predictable smooch. Whew! +1
But, of course, that's all there is to that final scene. The characters are not together... or, are they? Tin and Raf, carrying his son with Aly, end up looking up to the "Spoliarium" painting at the same museum. We are given no answer whether they end up as friends or are back as lovers. It's complicated, but aren't you glad it is? +5
At 29 points, it's definitely one of our top movies on the site ever graded. If you've been critical of Jadaone's style of storytelling, though, it might just be a burden for you to compare. You can simply rejoice with the film being as close to this damned reality as it gets—with a riveting story, perfectly narrowed down casting, above par acting, and good scoring to boot. As for the title, we only get to ponder over it at the end—hence, the slash. It leaves us in a mix of content and confusion, familiar to the ambivalence we carry from day to day in real life.
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Photographs courtesy of Black Sheep Productions