Kita Kita (I See You) (post-)#MondayReviews

***NOTE: Finally, a totally new review, woohoo!!! And of a really new movie, too 🙂 It’s a review, but I did add a few trivial bits.

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KITA KITA

The first time I saw its trailer, I decided that I wanted to watch Kita Kita. For one thing, it had been a while since I last watched an actual indie film and I am an indie supporter. I’m not really sure it should be called an independent, though, considering that it’s produced by a mainstream film outfit (that does seem past its heyday) and especially by one owned by a very famous, still very-”now” actor. But okay, they say it was made with a low budget, so why not?

Indie or not, the story had me curious so last Sunday, I brought the free ticket I’ve had for months and had a romantic date with myself. (There are perfectly good reasons why I was alone, but they’re not worth discussing, really.) My curiosity over the chosen stars did add much to that decision.

Alessandra de Rossi (a.k.a. Alex) has never headlined a mainstream movie or a regular TV series. However, when it comes to indies, she’s a legit superstar and has been legit since she was in her early teens. Just count the awards she has gotten over the years. I have seen enough of her movies (even wrote a review for one, and this reminds me to post it soon) to know how good she could be.

She has been one of a few stars I admire when it comes to serious acting that when I hear her being part of this or that, I often try to see her when I can. To see her take the lead in a romantic-comedy film kind of intrigued me.

Meanwhile, leading man Empoy Marquez, who usually goes with no last name, is the bigger surprise. He’s a comedian who has been active on both the small and big screens almost always as a supporting character. He probably has had lead roles before, but in single episodes of comedy or fantasy-comedy shows, nothing memorable.

Until this movie, he was never that comedian to watch out for. So imagine my (and other people’s) surprise to find out that of all the comedians to choose from, Empoy got the part. I wondered how he would pull it off given his brand of comedy. However, I think that was really it that made me think I wanted to see him in this movie.

The best reason that made me want to see Kita Kita was the premise of the love story. What is the premise of the story? Well, to start with, the title is short for “Nakikita kita”, in English, “I See You”. It is both a literal and figurative name to give the movie.

Lea is a Filipina working as a tourist guide in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. She experiences heartache while there. In a much bitter fate, she suffers a potentially permanent blindness and loses interest in life, living day-to-day like nothing matters anymore.

Then comes Tonyo, another Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW). He begins invading her life by persistently attempting to converse with her daily and bringing her food he’s cooked everyday, even though she snubs him and ignores the food he brings.

They eventually become friends. He asks her to accompany him and be his tourist guide, telling her “I’ll be your eyes.” In the process, he brings back the colors into her life by making her laugh and see the world again through him. Lea starts to go back to being happy and becomes more accepting of her situation without losing hope of ever seeing again, a hope that Tonyo helps bring back. They become so close that it somehow becomes obvious he has feelings for her. On the other hand, she starts “seeing” him in that newer light as well. They become almost-lovers.

Unfortunately, before everything turns out well for them, something happens that neither of them expects.

That’s as far as I will go. I’m not telling any more and giving the story away.

In some ways, you’d think, nah, it’s been done before: blind person meets the love of her life who turns out to be not what she expected. Or maybe she sees again, then in a twisted turn of fate, she dies from something else anyway…

Well, hold your horses. Something bad does happen (conflict is necessary in stories), and maybe a theory in your head does turn out to be correct (mine was), but it’s what you’ll get to find out next that’s going to make a lot more difference in how you see the story.

I love the story. It’s so simple that it’s so beautiful. It’s really got the magic of Filipino indies sans the poverty, sex and even violence common in a lot of them, sometimes exploited in a lot of them, too. It’s an indie that’s a sight for sore eyes–it’s actually aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. None of those slum shots that’s the staple of many Pinoy independent flicks. Not all realities need to be about those because that’s not the only reality we live in. I do feel like the setting could have been here, no need to go anywhere out of the country.

Anyway, another plus is the viewer gets to concentrate on them since save from a few bit players, Alex and Empoy are the only real cast of the film.

I admit, the first few minutes of the movie kind of bored me, but I knew they were necessary. It’s an SOP now in the screenwriting world, at least in the indie films, that I learned before. They had to show shots of how the protagonist functioned in her everyday life, her routines, what she did, etc. It established the scenario, the changes that were about to happen, the disruption in her life. Why only show Lea and not Tonyo was because Tonyo would appear later, just like how new people appear in our lives, no warning.

Good script from Sigrid Bernardo, funny ad libs (usually care of Empoy, you can just tell), nice twist that you don’t completely see coming, and a great way to emphasize that love can both be blind and enlightening at the same time.

Despite Tonyo being stalker-ish and you getting the feeling he knew her long before he approached her, you’d actually root for the guy to get his girl and not feel scared for her. He saw her at her lowest and brought her back. Somehow, she saw him at his lowest, too, and brought him back without knowing it. They saw the real them. Did I just give you a riddle? You’ll find out once you see it.

The acting was so natural and that’s what made viewers love the two actors. It’s underacting, so to speak. It seemed like there was 20% acting and 80% just being Alex and Empoy. So, no disrespect to directors Sigfrid Bernardo and Bb. Joyce Bernal, but I feel the most credit for the acting should go to the film’s stars.

Well, in a way, Alex was acting because she was much tamer here than in real life where she is funnier and rowdier, you’d wonder why drama is her forte. She is no stranger to comedy, but drama brings out the best actress in her. Empoy, on the other hand, was just being Empoy and it worked for him. He’s like the normal guys in our lives who could be funny, caring and lovable regardless of looks and background. His character might not have worked if they had chosen a more handsome (less realistic) and/or non-comedic (awkward) actor. Empoy is definitely the better option.

Alex gives a lot of credit to Empoy. She says her character could have been played by anyone and it would still be the same, unlike Empoy’s. I disagree. Yes, it could have been acted out by anyone well enough, but the chemistry between Lea and Tonyo would probably not have been the same. I’m saying that the Alex-Empoy tandem (now tagged as AlEmpoy, though I’d rather “ship” them as EmLex) fortunately had that obviously perfect on-screen chemistry that made the story work.

I am not entirely sure if it’s suitable to call this love story a romantic comedy. What confuses me more is how Empoy actually succeeded in making women feel those kilig moments. Everyone’s surprised! Now single girls and gays want their Banana, too, ha! #HowtoBeEmpoy . (As for the banana reference, find out for yourself.)

If you haven’t seen Kita Kita yet, catch it now before they stop showing it. I did not waste much time because of that as I did not assume that many would actually go and see it. If you’re living abroad, they will bring this to you (in the US, that I’m sure, at least), so watch out. Don’t speak Filipino? No sweat. They have subtitles. You won’t be disappointed, definitely.

However you will see the ending, I guarantee that you will not leave feeling like you’ve just wasted time and money. In fact, you just might want to see it again. I know I do.

(fr. left) Director Bb. Joyce Bernal, Writer-Director Sigfrid Bernardo, Producer Piolo Pascual (Spring Films), Alessandra de Rossi and Empoy

 

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Have you seen it? What can you say? Share your comments below. You know we love comments 😉