Offbeat rom-com a sparkling showcase for Alessandra’s beauty and ‘thespic brawn’
Most rom-coms leave little room outside their predictable contrivances for plot development or thematic insight—but, Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s heartwarming “Kita Kita” daringly veers away from mainstream cinema’s musty formulaic mold and requisite happily-ever-after template. It’ll make you snicker, then it’ll break your heart.
Bernardo’s gorgeously photographed film, even when weighed down by its rushed denouement, delivers a goofy but heartwarming, grin-on-your-kisser romantic charmer that makes clever use of the stellar but underutilized thespic gifts of its lead actress, Alessandra de Rossi.
Shot in postcard-pretty Hokkaido, the film follows broken-hearted “strangers” (De Rossi, Empoy Marquez) who find convenient comfort in each other’s unlikely company.
De Rossi plays Lea, a Japan-based OFW (overseas Filipino worker) who makes a living as a tour guide in Sapporo. She finds herself stricken with a rare case of temporary blindness—or retinal transient ischemic attack, in medical parlance—after she catches her deceitful fiancé canoodling in public with her close friend.
In most cases, Lea’s medical condition often lasts a few hours, but it usually involves just one eye. In her case, however, she remains inexplicably blind four weeks after its onset!
Subtle shades of humor
When Lea meets her self-effacing next-door neighbor, Tonyo (Marquez), she slowly comes to terms with her prolonged disability and falls in love with the intrusive guy who keeps her company, cooks for her, and makes her laugh.
True, the idea of De Rossi falling in love with Marquez requires suspension of disbelief. But the actress’ dramatic skills are more than sufficient to turn a contrived and oft-repeated narrative device into something plausible and disarming—which is a remarkable feat in itself.
By investing her character with subtle shades of humor and pathos, the lovely and luminous De Rossi puts her easy likability and innate charm to excellent use, by refusing to succumb to the challenging role’s “histrionic” possibilities.
She conveys Lea’s woes with understated grace, and manages to make her bittersweet story feel real and intimate to its core. As a result, De Rossi comes up with one of the most textured portrayals we’ve seen this year—a formidable dramatic turn that elevates her film’s weaker sequences.
For his part, Marquez may be appropriately cast, but his performance—by turns appealing and oddly amusing—is uneven, at best. He is laugh-out-loud hilarious in some scenes, but awkward and indecisive in others. He’s also underserved by a deus ex machina twist that further dilutes the production’s believability and viewability, with some of his character’s “psychological” actions seemingly pieced together at the last minute.
Our minor quibbles notwithstanding, the film deserves viewers’ avid patronage because it tells a seldom-told tale that is as relatable as it is devoid of pretense and artifice—much like true love itself!
It also doesn’t hurt that it wraps up its story with a most moving and thoughtfully staged finale that leads to Lea’s realization that love, in its purest form, operates without conditions. It transcends status and physical appearances.
“Kita Kita” astutely juggles its light comic touch with real emotions, courtesy of De Rossi’s significant portrayal.
The production is a return to form for Bernardo, who first charmed her way to viewers’ hearts with the exceptional coming-of-age screen gender-bender, 2013’s “Ang Huling Cha-cha ni Anita.”
“Lorna” (2014), on the other hand, has its share of irresistible moments of winsome whimsy, but it has eventually turned out to be too big for its thematic britches. Moreover, it is nowhere as tight and cohesive as “Anita”—no thanks to a self-indulgent tone and “excessive emotional baggage.” So, this time around, we’re pleased to note that Bernardo has chosen a sweet and simple romantic fable that’s right up her storytelling alley.
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