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.*

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Orange anime series and my Japanese inclination for such stories

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Orange has been on my list since late last year while I was occupied with Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April). I’ve been listening to its soundtrack from early this year without having even started the anime series and now it’s on repeat again as I’m finally watching it.

Stories such as (depression and suicide) Orange tend to have gravitational pull towards me. It’s been a strong predilection for me but my very first venture and exposure to such themes was when I read Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami back in college (Thanks to a college classmate’s recommendation). In this, three people committed suicide — Kizuki, who killed himself when he was 17, Reiko, and then eventually Naoko who had been struggling with the loss of Kizuki.

Then in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, which is now my favorite Murakami novel, there’s also suicide and depression with the character of Shiro.

With anime both series and films, such examples among my favorites are 5 Centimeters per Second’s Takaki, Ao Haru Ride’s Kou, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso’s Kousei, Koe no Katachi’s Shoya and Shouko, and then this anime series — Orange with Kakeru, which is set to become among my favorite anime series.

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Apart from the same themes, these are all Japanese. Even Kizuki’s suicide and Kakeru’s suicide in the alternative timeline are similar — both are 17.

Depression and suicide are highly complex because both are psychological and even more difficult to explain than any kind of medical illness.

I’m starting to wonder why I have so much attachment to characters and stories with the said elements. On my take, it’s something I deeply contemplate about. A close friend said, it’s because it’s something I can understand but perhaps it’s more than that.