This Time I’ll be Sweeter is about Erika (Barbie Forteza), who back in college had a major crush on varsity swimmer Tristan (Ken Chan). This did not end well for Erika, who ended up feeling betrayed and played with. Years later, Erika is a TV reporter struggling to get her stories on air. But she gets her chance to go live when a plane crashes in her vicinity. And it just so happens that the airline that suffered the tragedy is owned by Tristan’s family. So in pursuit of the story, Erika reunites with Tristan and stirs up old feelings.
It should be noted that the extent of their relationship in college largely involves spending one afternoon together. But of course, the film treats it like the gravest betrayal of all time. Because the film is not at all concerned with the way relationships work in real life. This is a really strange film that feels like nothing more than a random assemblage of romcom tropes, with no real regard for what feels real or what makes basic logical sense.
The film throws in a bunch of subplots that add to the runtime, but offer no real value to the movie. The movie only cares about these subplots in the moment, their conflicts isolated, and their effects forgotten by the next scene. It should probably matter, for example, that Erika has deep qualms about the nature of the work that she’s doing. But the moment she feels any real conflict, she just quits, and everybody seems to be happy about that. It feels for a while that Tristan’s relationship with his father would be a major component of this story. But that conflict is resolved in the middle of the film, and then his father literally does not show up in the movie again.
So the film goes on in little fits and starts, at times seemingly forgetting that it’s supposed to be about how these two characters feel about each other. The whole premise is built around Erika’s willingness to risk being hurt again, which is again, pretty weird since the film’s depiction of their college interactions is tame to the point of being completely inconsequential. But if we put that aside, we’re still left with an incredibly tepid romance that seems to progress purely through the soulless application of the genre’s tropes. The filmmakers don’t seem to really care about making a case for these characters being together. It just takes it for granted that audiences would like to see this pairing triumph in the end.
So there’s no sense of the two falling in love. There’s just a montage of scenes set in a water park that’s supposed to stand in for the development of their relationship. And then when the film inevitably splits them up again, it’s for a completely moronic reason that it almost feels like a direct insult on people who enjoy these kinds of films. There’s just no effort put into applying these tropes in a way that might actually be appealing. In all this, one starts to feel sorry for the two leads. Barbie Forteza has already shown that she deserves far better than this. Ken Chan basically looks like a fool in all this, clearly getting none of the guidance necessary to acquit one of this mess.
This Time I’ll Be Sweeter feels like it should be a joke, but it isn’t. It exhibits such outward disdain for the romcom and the people who like romcoms, the lack of care put into assembling the pieces of the film so palpable. This film is baffling right up to its last moments, which is a drone shot flying away from the central couple. It is baffling for how far away it flies, the camera rolling well past the point where it would have been reasonable to fade to black. It just keeps going, because it might as well. Nobody cares, apparently. You shouldn’t care about this movie, either.