Tag Archives: Bella Padilla

tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Meet Me in St. Gallen’ Deconstructs the Allure of a Fond Memory

Romance doesn’t have to last to be beautiful in this unusual romantic film

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Meet Me in St. Gallen is split up into three parts. Celeste (Bela Padilla) and Jesse (Carlo Aquino) first meet on a night when both of them are at a pretty low point. Celeste just quit her job, and Jesse bombed at a gig for his band. The two hit it off pretty quickly, but they part with the promise that they would keep their encounter perfect by not getting in touch with each other. They run into each other again years later, their one night together clearly having had a profound effect on the two of them.

It’s probably best not to talk about the third part, though this isn’t really the kind of movie that can get spoiled. Its pleasures don’t come from plot developments or surprises. It hinges instead on the appeal of watching two people who like each other play out the dance of romance, with all of its melancholy implications. The movie explores the tempting allure of the past, telling its story through thoroughly imperfect people burdened with the memory of a perfect moment in time.

There isn’t really much more to this film than three extended conversations between two people at different points in their lives. The entire story is predicated on a strange choice made on the first night, when both are at their lowest, looking for a measure of magic in their terribly dreary mundane existence consisting at that point of horrible bosses and equally horrible parents. The film then turns their initial reunion into an unusual escape from the choices that they made since they last met. The two are at different points in their lives, the night affecting them in starkly different ways. And in that difference, the film quietly lays down the brickwork for its denouement.

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It’s really clever, though probably not satisfying in the ways that people are used to. This film isn’t about the rush of a reunion, though that’s kind of there as well. But it’s really about what happens next, with the two having built lives separate from each other, even as the memory of their perfect moment hangs over them. These are characters are constantly conflicted, driven by an ache for the other, but held back by the reality of who they’ve already become. It’s dramatically dynamic, the film deconstructing the appeal of that initial magical chance meeting, turning into something more than just romantic fodder.

The structure works against the film at times, and the characters can be a little grating at points, but the film always hits it when it counts. The writing grows the characters, making them distinct people at different points in time. The performances help a lot with this as well. Carlo Aquino has long been due to be made a leading man, and he doesn’t waste his opportunity here. And Bela Padilla brings compelling realness to her character. She is the one playing up the conflict most of the time, with the clash between romance and reality constantly playing out on her face. And it works pretty well.

Meet Me in St. Gallen mainly feels like a story about growing up, about letting reality intrude into the romantic fantasies we’ve built for ourselves. It tells a story that acknowledges the mistakes that the characters make, and it lets them deal with the consequences in terribly compelling ways, all while still recognizing the odd beauty of their imperfection. The film doesn’t always work: there are bits that feel a little extraneous, and the characters’ navel-gazing can feel excessive at times. But overall, this is a thoroughly mature romantic film that seems to have special insight to what romance is in the real world. It’s a bit of magic that doesn’t have to last to be beautiful.

MEET ME IN ST. GALLEN IS NOW SHOWING CINEMAS.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Luck at First Sight’ Doesn’t Live Up to its Narrative Potential

The film’s plot has a gambling problem.

NBHD movie 2 ticketsLuck at First Sight is about the debt-ridden Joma (Jericho Rosales). He has just lost a lot of money gambling, and now he’s looking for a lucky charm so that he can make his money back. He buys a relic that’s supposed to lead him to his life charm, and it brings him to Diane (Bela Padilla), a young woman who doesn’t believe in luck, and is struggling to keep her family’s pharmacy afloat while trying to find the money to pay for her dad’s medical expenses. In spite of her skepticism, Diane goes along with Joma to a series of gambling sprees, and weirdly enough their contact seems to bring them incredible luck.Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 12.38.37 PM Trouble starts when the two fall in love. It is established pretty early on that one of the rules of this magical universe is that you cannot fall in love with your life charm. And as the two spend more time in close proximity to each other, reaping the benefits of their shared luck, that rule becomes harder to follow. It’s a cute premise, but the movie doesn’t quite turn it into an effective romance. It ends up spending too much time on its milieu, and not enough time convincing the audience that the two main characters actually like each other.Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 12.39.13 PMThe film ends up selling the romance mainly through montages. And these montages invariably involve the joy the two experience while winning at gambling. While the film does get kind of cute in these sequences, it doesn’t do much to establish the relationship as based on anything other than their mutual success. The plot doesn’t really have them dealing with real challenges together, the two never getting a chance to show the other what he or she is really made of.Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 12.36.05 PMThematically, the film is problematic. While Joma’s arc is ostensibly built around his eventual rehabilitation from what is a clear gambling problem, the script can’t conceive of a means of resolving the overall conflict that doesn’t involve gambling. If Joma can redeem himself through gambling, if it still provides a way for him to do the right thing, then this story doesn’t really work. The film seems to make it out that you can have the right reasons for gambling, and in this universe that’s good enough. That’s hardly a sentiment worth sharing.Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 12.35.24 PMThe film does look good, however. It feels like a lot of thought into how every scene would look, the film exhibiting a greater sense of visual design than your average local romcom. Jericho Rosales is pretty effective in this role, the actor really shining when he puts on a mask of bravado covering up his character’s desperation. Bela Padilla is also quite good in this, the actress displaying a certain toughness that separates her from the typical romantic lead. Cholo Barretto and Kim Molina are fun in supporting roles, even though they aren’t given much more than typical side character exposition to deal with.Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 12.36.43 PMLuck at First Sight has plenty of narrative potential. There is plenty to be done within a premise that separates luck from love; especially in a superstitious culture that will often conflate the two. But the writing just doesn’t live up to that potential. At best, the film is at times cute and consistently well produced. But the final product feels like it could have used a little more time in the oven, its themes simply not emerging through the insistent cloud of standard romcom elements.

LUCK AT FIRST SIGHT IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.