13th Cinema One Originals Film Festival: My World Cinema Picks

Before We Vanish: Seeing Ryuhei Matsuda on the big screen twice this year 

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Narumi Kase (Masami Nagasawa) is on bad terms with her husband Shinji Kase (Ryuhei Matsuda) until Shinji goes missing and comes back as a different person.  Meanwhile, a family is brutally murdered and an unexplained phenomenon takes place.

When Cinema Bravo unveiled the full line-up and schedules for the 13th Cinema One Originals Film Festival this past Wednesday, I immediately scrolled down to check the world cinema section, and I couldn’t help myself and jump with joy when I saw Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Before We Vanish,” an official selection at the Un Certain Regard section at the recent Festival de Cannes.

The film’s been on my lookout since I came to know about it late last year, all because it stars a big bias actor of mine, Ryuhei Matsuda. Since I’m keeping tabs of his films, I’m quite in the know whenever he has upcoming or new ones out in Japan.

Before We Vanish international teaser trailer

In fact, Before We Vanish was only released September 9 in Japan so that’s like just over two months of gap before it screens for the Cinema One Originals line-up. I’m totally amazed at how the Cinema One Originals committee are so quick to be able to bring these films so fast for the film fest after their run in international film festivals.

I’m totally exuberant because this will be the second time I’ll be getting to watch Ryuhei on the big screen, first at the  Eiga Sai Film Festival this past July with the film “The Mohican Comes Home” (2016).

Ever since I first got to see him on the big screen in “Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto” (2014), courtesy again of the Japan Foundation’s Eiga Sai Film Fest, his films have been  common fixtures in the line-up every year. It was just unfortunate though when I missed my favorite “The Great Passage” (2013) at last year’s Eiga Sai because of my birthday trip overseas but I’ve seen the movie before this on television via Red by HBO.

So I’m just totally in a euphoric state that I will get to see his latest film, Before We Vanish on the big screen. It’s all thanks to Cinema One Originals for bringing the film for the festival.

As for his director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, this will be the first time I’ll be seeing a film from the Japanese horror master as he is known in the industry. Just like Hirokazu Koreeda, he’s venturing into new territories with Before We Vanish, which is science fiction, a genre that isn’t very common in the Japanese movie industry. However, it seems Kurosawa has more diverse genres in his films than Koreeda.

His thriller film “Creepy” (2016) was among the line-up at this year’s Eiga Sai but I didn’t get to watch it but I’ve heard of him first from the film “Journey to the Shore” (2015), I think last year as it was part of Cinema One Originals but just the same I haven’t seen it and also “Bright Future” (2003).

The Third Murder: Hirokazu Koreeda’s change of pace

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Shigemori (Masaharu Fukuyama) is an elite lawyer who takes the case of Mikuma (Koji Yakusho), a self-confessed murderer to a crime that happened 30 years ago. Facing the death sentence, Shigemori begins to doubt if Mikuma is the real murderer.

For this film, “The Third Murder,” the reason why this is part of my shortlist is not because of the actor/s but more on the director, Hirokazu Koreeda, as I have seen quite a number of his films before that I really like or love.

IndieWire calls Hirokazu Koreeda as Japan’s “greatest living humanist filmmaker” and I really think this is one of the best ways to describe him. However, their review says about his latest film, The Third Murder, a rare misfire and an unwelcome change of pace.

The Third Murder English Subtitled Trailer

Toronto International Film Festival and The Guardian (The Third Murder review – death-sentence drama leaves you hanging) both have positive reviews.

I myself is actually a little surprised when this came to my awareness few months ago because it’s nothing like any of his works that center on family life and its complexities. And it seems like this is the first time he’s venturing outside the style that he is known for. 

Among my favorites from him are definitely “Like Father, Like Son” (which I saw from the 2015 Eiga Sai Film Fest) and “Our Little Sister” (which I missed from the 2016 Eiga Sai because of a trip but was able to watch at home). I also like “I Wish” (the one with Joe Odagiri and Bae Doo-na) and “After Life”. I have yet to watch last year’s “After the Storm” that stars Hiroshi Abe, Yoko Maki and Kiki Kirin.

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A lot of familiar names are here who starred in his previous films — Masaharu Fukuyama (Like Father, Like Son), Lily Franky (Like Father, Like Son), Suzu Hirose (Our Little Sister). Koji Yakusho also stars but I’m not sure if he’s starred in any of Koreeda’s films before, he’s in a number of Takashi Miike movies than Koreeda.

Despite the sudden change of direction, I’m gonna give this a shot, just because I’m aware of the quality of Hirokazu Koreeda’s films and that he always or most often than not delivers.

Call Me By Your Name: This year’s best of summer love

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Italy, summer of 1983, precocious 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is spending the summer at his parents’ villa in Lombardy when he meets Oliver (Armie Hammer ), a doctoral student and intern of his father. Amid the sun-drenched splendor of their surroundings, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.

Out of my three shortlisted films, only one isn’t Japanese nor Asian, and that is  Luca Guadagnino’s film adaptation of the 2007 novel of the same name by André Aciman, “Call Me By Your Name,” starring Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet, that had its debut at the Sundance Film Festival and is now garnering a place as one of the favorites to win best picture Oscar in February. 

In this case, neither the director nor the actors is my reason for choosing it. I saw the trailer to this few months back but I don’t remember how I came to find it on YouTube, but I was enamored by how beautiful it is from the trailer alone. The only cast that I know of is Armie Hammer but the rest of the cast and the director are fairly new to me.

Call Me By Your Name Trailer

I also can’t help but take notice of the song playing in the latter half of the trailer, and how it makes me wanna watch the film even more with it. I went looking for the song and it’s called “Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens, who also composed the song specifically for the film, as well as two more songs included in the original motion picture soundtrack. Now I’m thinking of getting the OST.

From the looks of it, it won’t be hard for me to fall in love with this film when I see it in full.

The 13th Cinema One Originals Film Festival runs on November 13-21 at Trinoma, Glorietta, Gateway, UP Cine Adarna, Cinema 76 and Cinematheque, and extended run from November 22-28 at the PowerPlant Mall.

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When something can never be rom-com

What ‘Last Night’ gets wrong about suicide

I saw the trailer to this and I find it bleh. I didn’t get anything out of the trailer of what it’s exactly about, at least, and I see Piolo and Toni looking at each other at a balcony of a nice-looking building or a hotel, all cutesy and lovey dovey. So this alone reduced the possibility of me ever watching it to total zero. However, I’d like to point it’s easy on the eyes, it’s nice to look at but that’s all there is to me.

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And then I read this review from CNN Phils (link above), which is a very well-written review, such an in-depth take, and so I find out that it’s about suicide — only this movie makes suicide such a trivial matter; that it’s a fun game while the “one-dimensional characters” are trying to think of horrendous ways of killing themselves and laughing it off every time they fail; that suicide can be a platform for tender moments, romance and falling in love; that one can be driven to suicide all because of a single event in the form of a break-up; that the decision to commit suicide is instantaneous; that this feeling of positivism and wanting to live again is also instantaneous for suicidal people (as if you just bumped your head lightly); and that after a failed attempt, one recovers so easily (with no serious after-thought or trauma of what was done).

It’s the kind of the film that I don’t even have to watch to know how it goes and how it ends. Besides, the review is highly detailed already. I can easily picture the scenes in my head while reading the review. I can’t blame the review for being spoiler-filled because she has to clearly point out the examples. It’s needed. After all, with or without spoilers, it’s the kind of film that’s ultimately predictable.

From the review alone, it already makes me think that it gives off the wrong message about suicide. Instead of making audiences have deeper understanding of suicidal people and mental issues, it encourages the idea that it’s fun to think of ways to kill yourself and that you can think of many creative ideas to do it, and that maybe in the process of trying to commit suicide, suddenly there’s a Romeo that’s out to save you and then, what else, of course they fall in love.

A college friend of mine (who watched the film) commented that it’s Carmina (Toni Gonzaga) who ended up saving Mark (Piolo), convincing him that life is worth living, but this doesn’t erase the fact that Mark still saved Carmina from that failed suicide attempt by the bridge (an example of a Romeo out to save a girl in the process of a suicide attempt).

My friend adds that “it doesn’t really encourage suicide but the message is that life is worth living.” Let’s say that’s the aim of the movie but by approaching the sensitive subject of suicide lightly and making it an avenue of fun, cutesy, and flirty interactions between the characters absolutely supplants that very message.

And then there’s this line. Mark tells Carmina, “Ayaw mo talagang magpakamatay. Nagpapapansin ka lang.”

If you’re an individual, whether or not you know someone who once tried to commit suicide or encountered it yourself, at least one should have an understanding that this very dialogue is so wrong. It’s because suicide should be taken seriously and not like a joke, like someone’s just acting all “papansin” (attention-seeking) and that he/she is not really going to do it even when they already showed signs and openly talked about suicidal thoughts.

Depression and suicide and others in anime and manga

The review cites “The Hours” and “Little Miss Sunshine” as good examples of films with the context of suicide and depression. As for me, I think of Ichigo Takano’s manga/anime series, “Orange” and Reiko Yoshida’s manga/anime film, “A Silent Voice” (Koe no Katachi), both of which are highly-acclaimed hits for their wonderfully-deep and well thought-out telling of depression, suicide, guilt, regrets, forgiveness, of past and present, bullying, redemption, friendship, second chances, and disability.

All these have become my anime favorites because they make me realize about so many things that matter. With Orange, I empathize so much to the main character, Kakeru and his strong sense of guilt for what happened to his mother and for Koe no Katachi, to Shouko, who is deaf and gets ostracized for being different and Shouya, for realizing the deep consequences of what he’s done to Shouko when they were kids.

Orange has love story in it but it isn’t the main focus, it’s a subplot; same goes with Koe no Katachi, the romance here doesn’t even come to light directly and is only implied.

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Another great example is also Makoto Shinkai’s definitive work, “5 Centimeters per Second” (2007) that astoundingly exemplifies the complexities and frailties of human connections and how these affect and change someone drastically, to the point of not seeing any sense in life anymore.

The same themes in literary fiction

In literary fiction, I can think of my top two favorite Haruki Murakami novels: “Norwegian Wood” (1987) and “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” (2014) as the books that gave me insight into depression and suicide and the tremendous trauma that affects the people who are left behind.

There are some subjects that you cannot make out to be humorous, fun, or romantic, and this is one example of that subject. It makes me wonder why do they always try to inject romance in everything. Makes me wonder if they’re trying to mimic the hype of “13 Reasons Why”, the novel-turned-Netflix series (which I will never see or read), only difference is this is rom-com. Makes me wonder why it always has to be cutesy.

* My own perspective is mine alone. It doesn’t apply to everyone.*

Blade Runner anime short: Black Out

I just saw Blade Runner anime short – Blade Runner: Black Out, and it makes me feel like I wanna watch a full series of anime Blade Runner. Can we get an animated version of Ryan Gosling, director Shinichiro Watanabe?

From live action to anime / From anime to live action

It’s ironic how an original live action film/series, when it becomes an anime version; most often, the anime version enhances the original, or at par with the original and at times, even better than the original.

Blade Runner: Black Out is an original anime short though, but it’s still based on an original live action film, and serves as the prequel and bridge between the original 1982 film and the new Blade Runner that’s out starting next Friday.

However, this is not the case when it’s the other way around — when anime is the one being turned into live action version, such as the awful case of Netflix’ Death Note and Ghost in the Shell. Then there’s also the ever escalating dread to the newly-announced Hollywood remake of 2016’s biggest hit, that is Makoto Shinkai’s Kimi no Na wa (Your Name). And more of that dread is expected to spread like wildfire up to when Paramount with JJ Abrams on the helm, finally reveals a teaser of the live action remake.

Tokyo Ghoul live action: My independent perspective

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This is the first instance I ever watched something on the first day, last screening though because I don’t wanna miss it like when I almost didn’t get to watch Your Lie in April back in December.

Not a fan of the anime as I haven’t seen it but I’m quite familiar and so far has watched some clips before seeing the film. But every time there’s a live action adaptation of manga-anime series, I always wanna check out the trailer to see if I should watch it. Then I saw the trailer of this coupled with a great ending song, I was floored and quickly decided I’ll see it.

As far as reviews go, it’s generally positive. As for me, it doesn’t disappoint from my stand-alone view of not comparing to the anime-manga of course, so I’m not saying anything about how faithful the film is from the manga, which is pointed out as one of the strong points of the film.

I enjoyed watching it and I really like it because it has a great cast that’s suitable for the characters they portray, has good balance of drama and action, the scenes and pace play out well meaning it doesn’t drag, it isn’t so gory or too violent for me, the cinematography — I love the cold dark color and atmosphere of the film, I love the effects of the kagune — it really gives me the creeps, love the fight scenes, it’s so well-done, particularly that climactic face-off between Kaneki and Amon (Masataka Kubota and Nobuyuki Suzuki really executed this part really good), and not to forget really strong performances from the cast, specifically Nobuyuki Suzuki as Amon, Yu Aoi as Rize, Yu Oizumi as CCG investigator Mado and Masataka Kubota as Ken Kaneki.

I’m so amazed right now with Masataka, that part when he gets all consumed and deranged by his ghoul instincts and about to kill and eat Amon is the highlight of his performance as Kaneki. He gets all the craziness of this character all in the right ways, even when he was still the nerd human Kaneki.

He gets my respect from this performance. I do know him from Death Note TV series but haven’t seen it but after researching him, I found out he earned a best actor award as Light. This reminds me of how Kenichi Matsuyama also earned awards from his performance as L from the Death Note movies, but this time the cards are on Light’s side for having the stronger and more talented actor between the two. #MasatakaKubota

With this, the film makes me wanna watch the anime now and I’m now considering seeing Death Note TV series despite being uninterested when I first heard about it — one reason is that I’m not exactly okay with YamaKen as L.

Eiga Sai Ph 2017: 20 Years of Japanese Cinema.

 

Despite failing to get a ticket last Saturday for the last Shang Cineplex screening of opening film, “Her Love Boils Bathwater,” I still have a chance to see it sans the director’s talk and not on the big screen but probably via projector since it will be playing on August 19 at the UP Film Institute for free.

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Atsuko Maeda is one lucky girl — she got to work with both of the Matsuda brothers — Ryuhei and Shota but she co-starred with Shota first in “Initiation Love” (2015). 
Even Akira Emoto, who plays Ryuhei’s dad in this film has co-starred with both brothers, first with Shota in “Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit” (2008). I love Ryuchan’s mom here, Masako Motai. She is simply adorable, she’s a darling. There’s something with her smile and her face that gives me the warm feeling inside. 
Yudai Chiba, as Koji, the younger brother is cute and funny but his hair is terrible. I know him from “Ao Haru Ride” as Toma Kikuchi.

On the other hand, I was successful this past Wednesday at catching my other priority film — “The Mohican Comes Home,” a dramedy about an ailing father and his long-absentee struggling punk musician son and their unusual family. Starring Ryuhei Matsuda, Atsuko Maeda, Yudai Chiba, Akira Emoto, and Masako Motai.

One of the greatest pleasures of my fangirl life is being able to watch a high-bias actor on the big screen. That extreme euphoria of seeing Ryuhei again on the big screen, like he’s larger than life and that I have a maximum of 2 hours to ogle at him. I first saw him on the big screen at the 2015 Eiga Sai in “Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto.”

The Mohican Comes Home easily becomes one of my favorite Japanese movies now, and of course one of my favorite Ryuhei movies.There’s so much about this film that I can relate to, except the idea of being a punk rocker and the pregnant girlfriend.

Some of the subtle real-life moments of the film that I find really touching and relatable:

  • When Eikichi (Ryuhei Matsuda) takes over the conducting duties from his Dad Osamu (Akira Emoto) for the practice of the local school’s brass band of middle school students, in which Eikichi changes the tune that they usually play by taking the cue from the student drummer — he finds himself enjoying with the school band and ends up laughing altogether resulting to his Dad’s annoyance as he hears them over the phone;
  • When Eikichi asks his Dad to write his last wishes so that he can see if he can do something about them;
  • When Eikichi dresses up as Eikichi Yazawa, his Dad’s idol and Hiroshima’s Elvis because his Dad wrote he wants Yazawa to visit him;
  • When Eikichi simply walks behind his Dad not knowing where his Dad is going until they reach the graveyard;
  • When Eikichi tries his best to find that same pizza his Dad ate on his 60th birthday by ordering all kinds of pizza from (3) pizza chains and asking them to have it delivered to their place in Tobi Island, Hiroshima;
  • And the beach scene — that quiet conversation between Eikichi and his Dad and when he finds himself crying while trying to stop it in the middle of eating ‘onigiri.’

And this is why Eiga Sai is such a blessing because Japanese films are harder to find and if I do find them, there are no available English subs online. Even DVDs with subs are hard to come by.

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Since I’m still sad about missing last year’s Eiga Sai and my favorite “The Great Passage” (due to an overseas personal trip), I hope next year, I’d get to see another Ryuhei film, perhaps “My Uncle” which also premiered in Japan last November and crossing my fingers, “Before We Vanish” that had its international premiere at the Un Certain Regard section of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and will premiere in Japan this September 9th.

It would also be nice if they’d (The Japan Foundation, Manila) get to include more old films and maybe stage a Studio Ghibli film festival because other countries are bringing back Ghibli films to the big screen like a film festival or at least include some Ghibli films next year.

Among the films, I’ve seen “Departures” before already and saw “In This Corner of the World” at a regular screening last week. I’m still looking to watch Sweet Bean on Sunday, closing day of Eiga Sai at Shang Cineplex and If Cats Disappeared From The World on August 17 – UP Film Institute.

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This year, there are 20 films to celebrate the 20 years of Japanese cinema in the Philippines, and will also make the rounds this August until the 29th at the UP Film Institute, CCP, Cebu, Davao, Baguio, Bacolod, and Iloilo.

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The line-up this year includes (3) 20th anniversary features:

*Departures / Memories of You / Sting of Death

Besides Her Love Boils Bathwater and The Mohican Comes Home, other award-winning and critically-acclaimed contemporary films include:

*In This Corner of the World (In connection Manga Hokusai Manga Exhibit)

*Sweet Bean

*The Long Excuse

*The Magnificent Nine

*Creepy

*Chihayafuru Part I/II

*What A Wonderful Family

*If Cats Disappeared From The World

*Bakuman

*The Anthem of the Heart

*Tsukiji Wonderland

*Asian Three-fold Mirror 2016: Reflections

*Poolsideman

*Sadako vs Kayako

For screening schedules, check Eiga Sai Ph official Facebook. 

‘Sleepless’ at the QCIFF

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Again, it’s another last minute post. I’ve been meaning to write about this since I saw the film last month at the 3rd QC International Film Festival but I haven’t gotten around to write on it. This is my 6th film festival of the year. The last is Cinema One Originals also last month where I saw Hou Hsiao-Shien’s “The Assassin” and an animated short film “Memorya” by Jovanni Tinapay.

2015 is definitely the year of the movies and I’m happy to know I was able to see that much this year, some were even free. It seems like I actually spent a lot on seeing movies this year more than anything else, even books, though I had some book purchases as well.

Like as mentioned in my previous posts, it has become a habit for me to attend and watch film festivals whether or not I’m going to write it for Pinoy Gazette, and I especially like to try the ones I haven’t attended before. This time, there’s Cine Europa which I had one movie and another one from the French Film Fest.

Another first for me this time is the 3rd QC International Film Festival. I actually really wanted to attend last year’s season but it coincided with Cinema One Originals. Luckily this time, they weren’t happening on the same dates.

I decided to watch one this romantic-comedy titled “Sleepless” starring Dominic Rocco and Glaiza De Castro from the direction of Prime Cruz and screenplay by Jen Chuansu, both former freelance writers from Star Cinema.

I was initially attracted to it when I read it’s about two insomniac and how these two different but similar people have come to form a connection during the hours while most people are asleep; talking about random matters from zombie apocalypse, to Facebook posts, superpowers, love, and all those in between.

And while I wasn’t particularly impressed with the chemistry, I can say that I’m very fond of the two characters’ simple interactions. Their conversations and at how they can almost talk about anything is one thing I really appreciate and that’s the core of real friendship.

I felt that there’s some sort of romantic spark going on but the film didn’t need to venture to that just so it can validate the value, realism and meaning of the film. I find that one thing particularly interesting.

Another highlight of the film is how beautifully it captured Manila by night and how the night becomes the witness to Gem (De Castro) and Barry’s (Rocco) nocturnal loneliness and the eventual development of their unique bonding and friendship. It’s part of the story, as if it’s breathing among them.

The way the film depicted Manila by night is something that affects anyone like them or even anyone who isn’t insomniac – the complete silence that it can almost break something and the things nocturnal people do at night.

To me, it’s like the night has become their home and their only solace from the life that they have to face during the day. I can relate to this a lot because I myself is someone who likes to be awake during the wee hours of the night. It simply has that unique calm and quiet feeling that the day doesn’t give.

I’d still give it 3/5 stars although it didn’t necessarily topped “That Thing Called Tadhana” by Antoinette Jadaone which I so love. But then again, the film has its own faults (cliche relationship of Gem to a married man or the awkward incorporation of animation) but it has its own distinct shining moments that any rom-com film doesn’t have.

‘A Second Chance’ : Love’s Lost Identities

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I wasn’t intending to read a review about A Second Chance this morning (Nov.29) but I read it anyway, though I’m not particularly influenced by reviews, from ClickTheCity by Philbert Dy. One important thing he mentioned was about the ending. And when Anna and I saw the movie today, I finally understood what he meant.

Like the review, I’d give it 4*/5 because I was a little disappointed with the ending. I feel like the writers rushed it too much, that they had to force them to make amends with each other. If it were told the other way, it would have been a lot better.

If I were the writer, which I’m not, but I wanted Popoy to leave for London so he could reclaim himself, the talented engineer and the self-respect he lost from all the circumstances, and because it is also what Basha needs.

I wanted to see Popoy doing well in London and Basha happy managing the firm, that despite being away, they remain to be married and are gradually patching things up the long-distance way. They just need some time and distance apart to regain the identities they’ve lost and to come back to who they really were as individuals.

I can honestly say that I like this one better than the first because this time it isn’t only about petty quarrels, wanting for space, being controlled, breaking-up, getting back together. They’re dealing with matters of more weight this time, of matters they promised at the altar to face together.

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I honestly think Popoy and Basha rushed into things. For me, they didn’t really have to get married right away after getting back together. They could have continued on with their own separate careers as an engineer and an architect.

In the last scene from One More Chance, he did say he won’t be going away anymore but really that could change. It’s an honest to goodness opportunity that will benefit the two of them in the long run. He should have taken the London offer. And there’s also the idea of putting up their own firm, it was too soon. I felt like they didn’t think about it properly, like they just felt the need to put up their own because now they are married. Because let’s face it, when you work with your wife or husband, you’re definitely bound to get into big arguments combining that of personal matters. It’s a one big mess. At the end of all this, it was all because they love each other.

I also felt bad for Popoy. I get that part of the fault is his because he allowed matters escalate to its worst. But if there’s anyone who’s most disappointed, it’s him. He wanted to rush things, in two years, he would have already built the dream home that he promised to Basha, so he ended up taking too many projects. It was beyond him, and it wasn’t all his fault as well. He lied to her because he didn’t want to hurt her, but of course she’ll eventually find out and that will hurt her more.

Basha decided to stay with him and took matters in her hands, but everytime, she shoves it in his face without saying anything that she’s right, that she’s the one taking charge of everything now, that he should have listened to her all along. It’s like everyday, she’s making less of Popoy, of what’s little that’s remained of Popoy’s respect for himself from the events that happened.

But I’m also not dismissing the challenges Basha had to face, like the loss of their supposed first baby, how they’re trying to get pregnant again but it just won’t work, and how she keeps wondering why Popoy’s always in a hostile mood but she keeps trying to reach out to him.

I also find the calamity proof structure interesting. If one really thinks about it, Popoy has a good point of trying to get the idea out, pitching it to clients, and that one day someone is going to understand and believe in the idea. Because if he never tried to put it out, then it’ll feel like he’s already lost when he hasn’t started anything about it. Although I have to admit that the idea may be a little too advanced for some, or that Popoy is thinking too much beyond since it all depends on what they need or want.

They both had difficulties of their own despite being married, and because they’re shielding each other from the possible pain and anger, that very love that they’re holding onto is also what’s driving them apart. And as they grow more into strangers, they’re slowly losing how to trust each other and losing the identities of the people they originally married.