Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Nat Hood falls in love with SID AND AYA (NOT A LOVE STORY) NYAFF 2018

Don’t let the coy title confuse you—Irene Villamor’s Sid & Aya: Not a Love Story is, in fact, a love story. But the point is that, unlike the majority of Filipino romances, it isn’t just a straight romance with a clean-cut ending.

In keeping with the recent trend of female Filipino directors reinterpreting the romance genre, Sid & Aya seeks to examine the buried hurts and needs that drive lonely people together and the fears and anxieties that oh so often drive them apart. The film follows Sid (Dingdong Dantes), a cutthroat stockbroker plagued by insomnia. One night while grabbing a midnight snack at a cafe, he encounters Aya (Anne Curtis), a brassy waitress who impresses him by finding him completely unimpressive. The two strike up a friendship and Sid eventually offers to pay her $20 an hour to talk him to sleep. Though initially hesitant, Aya agrees because she needs the money. The two slowly fall in love, both in the course of their midnight conversations and through a series of meet-cutes where Sid keeps accidentally running into her at her other part-time jobs. Things promptly fall apart as soon as they consummate their relationship: Aya’s father has a stroke and she moves to Japan to take care of her mother. As lovesick young men are wont to do in these movies, Sid follows her overseas and tries to rekindle their affair.

But as the film continues we start to suspect that maybe Sid doesn’t love Aya because he loves her, but because he sees her as a bandaid for his self-imposed social isolation. Does he love Aya or simply need her? And what about Aya? Was her father’s stroke the real reason for moving abroad or merely an easy out for Aya to cut ties with Sid after things became too intense too quickly? Villamor deliberately keeps the details of her genre deconstructions vague, allowing multiple interpretations. Some can see the film as a sincere tragic romance; others will see a defiant woman justifiably rejecting a creepy ex-boyfriend.

Ultimately the film works thanks not to the script but to Curtis’ performance as the mercurial Aya. She does wonders at keeping the audience guessing about her true intentions and feelings, whether she’s confessing her love or performing at a Japanese burlesque house. If she played it too straight, it’d be cheap melodrama. If she played it too loose, it’d be comedy. But she finds the perfect middle ground for a film with no easy answers.

Rating: 7/10

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