My friends and I braved second row seats just to watch That Thing Called Tadhana, which means that for most of the time, we were craning our necks to watch the full screen. At around 2 p.m., most seats have already been sold for the 5:40 show, which obviously wouldn’t have been the case had Glorietta assigned one cinema solely for Tadhana. This was surprising for us since the movie has been getting rave reviews and a Grade A from critics. But lo and behold, it only has three screenings and had to share screen with a foreign film, a quite ironic reminder of the status of the local cinema.
The opening title with its quirky dialogue and animated story will ease you towards what the movie is about, a toungue-in-cheek and an all-too familiar story about moving on from a heartbreak. One can easily dismiss it as a stereotypical rom-com with good-looking characters in a narrative woven so as to ensure a happy albeit cheesy ending. When I watched the trailer, it was one of my fears that the movie would be a formulaic melodrama punctuated by Angelica Panganiban’s funny one-liners and JM de Guzman’s adorable smile. And it was that PLUS so much more. It was an honest depiction of the grief of losing a lover, the enormous weight of the memories and the bond that keeps it hard to move on, the pain of betrayal, the stupidity of holding on, the insecurity that eats you up after the rejection and the fear of being alone and of never finding love ever again.
Mace, played by Angelica Panganiban, was the heroine who got jilted by her boyfriend of eight years. Sounds familiar, right? She left Manila to be with her boyfriend who has been working in Italy, only to find out he had been seeing another woman, a colleague. His infamous parting words were, “Di na kita, mahal. Makakaalis ka na.” He’s quite a catch, isn’t he? As Mace would further illustrate, he ended their eight-year relationship with seven words. Let the math sink in. Then carefully consider this, had he made it an eight-word rejection, maybe, just maybe, it would have been more acceptable? Easier to digest? As they say, there’s safety in numbers. How about if he respectfully said,”Di na PO kita, mahal. Makakaalis ka na?” Or tried a sharper one, “Di na nga kasi kita mahal. Ang kulit mo.” But maybe what he really wanted to say was, “Iba na kasi mahal ko. Ganun talaga minsan, magigising ka na lang, iba na mahal mo.”
An irritating part of moving on is replaying the last moments, overthinking what has been said, looking for the loopholes in the past and rationalizing the ending. Mace grappled with the separation because she couldn’t figure out what she did wrong. Most of us get this wrong too often. She didn’t do anything wrong. The guy found someone else. Still familiar, right?
So Mace goes home, meets a cute harmless-looking Pinoy on her flight with a knight in the shining armor flare to remind us that this is a rom-com because in a movie you just don’t simply meet a guy. Something has to happen like he rescues you from the zombies or he is the heir apparent of the hacienda your family works for. Anthony, played by JM de Guzman, is a yuppie who throws around the word “burgis”(bourgeois) ever so casually, which would have endeared his character to me since burgis happens to be my go-to insult for practically everything wrong with the middle class (side eye #JusticeForDLSZ) except he is burgis himself. He has a car, has just vacationed in Italy, has a seemingly high-paying job and has the luxury to be insecure with his talent. Okay, now that wasn’t really burgis. Haha.
So then in the movie, we follow these two as they go on a road trip to Baguio and Sagada, which Anthony thinks is a favorite of the burgis to go soul searching. The film doesn’t disappoint Baguio City’s Tourism Office with its showcase of the popular tourist spots like The BenCab Museum, Cafe by the Ruins, Session Road and even the strawberry taho. Then we go further north because as Anthony has told Mace, there is a place there, which can help you ease your burden, a beautiful place on top of the clouds, literally. Here we see Mace break down and beg to let go of her heartache while Anthony tries his damnedest to look sympathetic without taking away screen focus from Mace. That almost endeared him to me except I couldn’t forgive him for not borrowing or renting a tent and letting Mace spend the night before without protection from the cold. I dare you to sleep under the stars in Sagada and not wake up with a bad case of colds. I mean, just before they slept that night, they were at an indoor cafe and she was shivering from the cold. Now explain how she survived the night. Also, Anthony didn’t even bother picking up their mat and blanket in a hurry to get to the perfect spot. Try explaining that to mountaineers and foresters.
So then we follow the duo, more mellow now that they have seemed to have accepted their path and more intent to move on. By this time I couldn’t really help imagining how much they stink since they haven’t taken a shower. So I was very excited for hygiene’s sake when they got back to Manila. Finally, they’ll get to lather. But life’s fucked up. Mace has an unexpected guest waiting for her at the gate of her house. Oops, spoiler alert. Sorry. On the other hand, Anthony goes home in a dark typically unsafe-looking cab (hello, white cab with a cheesy name) deep in thought before breaking into a hopeful smile, easily my favorite scene (but second only to the one where Mace recounted how her boyfriend likes her to put ketchup on his hotdog because i’m mature like that}.
One of my guilts about the story is that I could not feel sorry for Mace despite what she went through and even when she threatens to flood the audience with her never-ending supply of tears. I couldn’t share her pain and I wasn’t sure if it was because I only hear her talking about the breakup and then cry some more and that there were no tangible or more visual representations. Or did I miss them? Or maybe I wasn’t meant to. Maybe sharing the pain wasn’t the point. Maybe rooting for her to pull through it all was. Because just like your friend who got dumped by a douche, you walk with her as she tries to survive her agony even if it means listening to countless retelling of ex memories or singing cheesy videoke songs.
I’m not sure if I am alone in this but I also couldn’t bring myself to believe that Mace and Anthony will end up together. I am strongly hoping though that they both fully let go of their past and meet someone new in their lives. That’s why I like Anthony’s cab ride at the end, it was like a peek at his future. But this is a rom-com, and as the epilogue suggests, it’s a happy ending for them. And we need happy endings. No one can disagree with that.
So ladies and gentlemen, watch That Thing Called Tadhana if you are a fan of Antoinette Jadaone’s quirky, relatable writing; if you appreciate Angelica Panganiban’s comedic timing and you think JM de Guzman is adorable; if you want a traditional rom-com for approximately half the cost of a bus ride from Manila to Baguio; if you like a movie that can really make you laugh, and that includes inside jokes about John Lloyd Cruz and Derek Ramsey, if you’re into that, I mean; if you believe in destiny (tadhana), and also if you think it’s pure BS; if you have been crazy and stupidly in love and maybe have lost it, too. Because sometimes a funny movie about how stupid love can be is a good reminder that you may be lonely but definitely not alone. Mace will literally tell you that.