Anna Luna and Jake Cuenca in 'Requited.'
Despite a story that’s brimming with potential, Nerissa Picadizo’s “Requited” never really hits its stride because of its weak script.
“Requited” is the story of Matt (Jake Cuenca) and his journey from Manila to Pinatubo by bicycle. The film starts strong, almost quiet except for the beautiful music of Chi Capulong and the constant sound of the pedals and chain at work. The first few minutes are practically silent, camera squarely on Jake Cuenca, as he goes from Ortigas down EDSA to SM North EDSA and then out into the provincial highway.
There is an energy being built here through the silence and the use of distance that Matt has covered through biking alone. He is running from something. His cell phone rings but he never answers it. He even breaks it before he continues until his friend Sam (Anna Luna) catches up with him. This should be the payoff for that build up, but sadly it flounders away.
The story progresses without any control of the dramatic tension that was built at the beginning. Matt and Sam are on tenuous ground. He is obviously in love with her and she knows it but she’s with someone else. He blames her for not being a good friend, she gets mad at him for being so angry all the time. But nothing else really happens.
Early on, we see that Matt is dealing with an illness, something that is implied as being terminal. It’s the reason for this trip, it’s the reason for the scars on his wrist, and his anger. But the film attempts to prolong the information and replaces this with mood.
The pair continue their travels, stopping by at convenience stores, roadside carinderias, and motels to sleep over. They are always broaching the issues that are evidently there but they never actually deal with them.
There’s a lot of scenes of just Matt and Sam biking through the province but unfortunately this does not serve as a metaphor for anything that’s going on. It does not give us any real look inside these characters’ internal world.
In fact, the film as a whole, is literal. The lead characters’ conversations are shallow; more for the audience’s benefit than for theirs. Often, the camera brings attention to itself and reminds us we are watching a movie. It is unnecessarily shaky in the scenes when they hit rocky ground and most of their shots biking on the highway are taken from the same angle the whole time, reminding us of how difficult it is to shoot in such conditions.
It’s because the film is so literal and because it constantly reminds us that it is a film that, when the finale hits, what should be a dramatic highpoint made everyone in the cinema laugh. All that built-up dramatic tension misfires because the scene wasn’t plotted properly and the storytelling didn’t help us get invested in these characters. Its supposedly dramatic climax made people laugh instead of cry.
It’s unfortunate, though. Jake Cuenca and Anna Luna are amazing actors. Chi Capulong’s musical score is beautiful. The sound design is strong. But there was a whole world that was going on in the film that the director wasn’t able to bring out.
“Requited” could have been affecting. But it’s too literal in its storytelling, and its characters are too vague for us to care about their journey. There’s a story here that is worth telling but it still needed to be refined before hitting the open road.
“Requited” is a full-length feature film entry in the ongoing Cinemalaya Film Festival and is now screening at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and Ayala Cinemas. For screening schedules, visit www.cinemalaya.org or www.sureseats.com.