‘Alone/Together’ is not a romance movie

This review contains spoilers.

 

You’ve probably read at least one Alone/Together review by now. Or maybe your Twitter feed has been flooded by tweets from moviegoers who had something to say about the movie. We’re probably weeks late with this, but we had so much to unpack with this movie. I mean… Liza Soberano’s freaking pimple. Enrique Gil’s overly tan (and borderline orange) skin. New York. And let’s not forget Jasmine Curtis in another Pathy with an H-esque role. But here it is, another Alone/Together review, which came about after some much-heated discussions with my workmates, and the occasional reminiscing of my UP days.

It takes a good storyteller to portray authentic emotions through written characters. It takes a great storyteller to incite the same feelings and emotions in their audience. Antoinette Jadaone is a great storyteller. She has always been one to write her characters as people journeying through life, and more often than not, the journey is a literal trip somewhere. In That Thing Called Tadhana, Mace starts off as a heartbroken and lost girl who goes on a spontaneous trip with a stranger to Baguio, where she slowly learns to heal her heart. In Never Not Love You, Joanne, who once centered her life on her work, falls in love and decides to uproot her life in the Manila to live in London with her boyfriend.

In Alone/Together, the journey is that of growing up. Of crossing the line from being a wide-eyed, idealist college girl, to an adult who has come face-to-face with failure — one who has learned the art of compromise, and one who has learned that the pursuit of dreams should not stop at one failed attempt.

It’s in the first few minutes of Alone/Together that I get hooked on Liza’s character Tin. Tin tells the origin story of Juan Luna’s Spoliarium while touring a bunch of kids in the National Museum. She relates the painting to the Eraserheads song, but not without pointing out the difference in the spelling. The song, she says, is spelled as Spolarium. A stranger, Raf (Enrique Gil), points out her mistake, and she’s quick to defend her facts. She’s so sure of herself. “A true blue iska,” I think to myself.

The movie proceeds and it’s the perfect depiction of the UP experience. Tin wears simple clothes and slippers to school. She eats isaw and kwek-kwek. She talks big on her plans of changing the world. Heck, even her nonchalant use of “tangina” perfectly captures UP culture.

It’s easy to think that the movie is all about college life and what happens after. But it’s worth pointing out that there are underlying commentaries on social issues. At the very beginning of the movie, Tin instills in her audience “We must not forget.” — a sentence often chanted on the streets by protesters.

But here’s when the story really gets to you: Tin, with her graduate honors, her hopes and dreams, her plans for a better world, loses herself in the process of building her future. The movie’s kilig opener of Tin and Raf falling in love transitions into a full-blown heartbreak. Tin breaks up with Raf, and fast forward five years later, we see them leading very different lives. Gone is the optimistic Tin. Gone is the struggling Raf. Their worlds have flipped. Now, Tin is in a relationship with an older man, without a trace of her old self, and Raf is a successful philanthropic doctor.

 

Tin and Raf were intersecting lines only meant to be together once and never again. Their love was real, yes, but it was never meant to last.

 

I expected Alone/Together to be a cheesy romcom movie. It opened on Valentine’s Day, members of a prominent love team were casted as the leads, and the director is a well-known romantic. But as the story played out, it became clear to me that it was never a love story. It was only about Tin. Her aspirations, her failures, her compromises, and her pains. Raf was just a part of her journey, an anecdote — an ex-boyfriend who made an unexpected appearance in her present life. Tin and Raf were intersecting lines only meant to be together once and never again. Their love was real, yes, but it was never meant to last.

Before you go on and burn me at the stake for hating on your favorite love team’s romance, let me tell you this: Raf’s character was written in such a way that he only existed in the context of Tin. College days? Tin’s boyfriend. Doctor days? An ex-boyfriend looking for answers. New York? An ex-boyfriend hoping to bring back the past. He fades in the background as Tin gets her redemption. As Tin realizes that the same man who saved her from the financial scam years ago is the same man who has thwarted her from realizing her dreams, Raf becomes nothing but a painful memory.

That said, the movie still hurt like hell. As Tin cried in her bed after breaking up with Raf, I felt as if I was going through the same misery. As she confronted her boyfriend about her plan to resign and pursue art again, I felt the raw pain of getting rejected, and empathized when he told her that she wasn’t good enough.

Alone/Together’s charm stems from the sincerity in its storytelling. Hurt and failure weren’t exaggerated with hugot lines. Conversations felt real, as if you were watching a real life story of someone you know. It’s a fast-paced telling of growing up, laden with truth slaps and a little bit of romance. Liza Soberano shows us that more than her beautiful face, she is an actress worthy of recognition. And Jadaone, yet again, shows us that happy endings don’t necessarily mean that the characters end up together.

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