Review: 'Sana Dati' (Cinemalaya 2013 - Directors Showcase)

Dexter Rodrigo Matilla - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Every once in a while there comes a Filipino film that is as close to perfection as it could get—from the cinematography, the actors, the acting, and most importantly, the story.

“Sana Dati” is such a film.

What should have been a normal wedding day for Andrea (Lovi Poe) turns out to be more than what her family pays for when they hire videographer Dennis (Paulo Avelino). In front of the camera, Andrea sits as she answers questions from Dennis, who seems to actually know more about his subject more than she could have ever thought.

The questions are harmless enough, until Dennis prods even more, forcing Andrea to truly reflect on whether she really does love the man she is about to marry, former politician Robert (TJ Trinidad) or if she’s still hounded by a memory she had thought forgotten.

The non-linear narrative employed by director Jerrold Tarog might be confusing at first, but then you realize it only helps in mystifying further the internal struggle that both Andrea and Dennis face. Are they lovers? Were they lovers? Could Dennis be that forgotten memory?

Such is the beauty of “Sana Dati”—it challenges you to ask questions and holds your interest from start to finish. And it certainly helps that the crystal-clear cinematography is a delight to the eyes and one could say it provides a contrast to the intended blur that is the story’s theme.

Poe, in all her character’s brokenness, is majestic in this film. Who would have thought that acting out a bloated stomach could still have a certain level of sexiness? Andrea is a girl that is flawed despite her physical perfection. But she had known love and to a certain extent still holds on that concept even though she’ll have to continue believing in it the rest of her life with a man she barely knows.

I could only imagine how Andrea’s character was described to Poe but she understood it and it comes across exceptionally in the film.

Trinidad’s Robert, meanwhile, is nothing like the guy we know in love stories whom we cheer for to lose. The confusion he shows and the restraint thereafter adds to the intensity of this unconventional love triangle.

The same can be said of Avelino whose mysterious role sets everything in motion. Stoic behind the camera, his Dennis is anything but as proven in flashbacks, displaying Avelino’s range as an actor who in this film has a longing for truth.

I don’t want to give anything away but there’s a role dutifully played by Benjamin Alves that puts everything into perspective. He is involved in one scene that just truly breaks one’s heart.

And there are other characters of course who are memorable despite their bit parts—important nonetheless and serves as the icing on this well-baked film.

There is a reason why I’ve avoided reviewing Filipino films because the good ones come very few and far between. I’m hoping that “Sana Dati” signals the arrival of more thoroughly thought-out romantic films—or if not, at least make them as good as this one.

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