That Thing Called Tadhana (destiny): Movie Review

tadhanaI never really connected to the term #hugotfeels, a recent expression that means connecting with a deep feeling until I watched That Thing Called Tadhana, an indie movie written and directed by Antoinette Jadaone for the Cinema One Originals competition. It was a low budget movie that even had to ask for people’s donations in the last leg of filming because the producers were asked to pay P220,000 for the rights of using the song “Where do Broken Hearts Go?” as part of the movie. The song cost was more already over the actual production of the movie but according to the filmmakers, it was totally worth it. In the end, the movie got made and lead actress Angelica Panganiban, was awarded for her performance in the movie. It was recently released in mainsteam cinema and already garnered P120 million in box office sales.

After finding out that her boyfriend of eight years cheated on her when she had already packed her bags and used her savings to surprise him in Italy, brokenhearted Mace (Angelica Panganiban) meets Anthony (JM de Guzman) at the airport when the latter tries to help her out with her excess luggage. They spend the next few hours of the flight seated next to each other and soon find themselves on an extended road trip to Sagada in an effort to heal Mace’s broken heart and forget about the ex who hurt her deeply.

I have to give credit to writer/director Antoinette Jadaone for making this movie. Simply said, it was superb. Unlike other breakup movies, it did not go overboard and simply drew from reality, making the emotions come naturally for both the actors and the viewers. The story was easy to connect to. The dialogue was great. It sounded like real things real people would say and lead actors Angelica Panganiban and JM de Guzman truly dug deep to deliver on excellent performances. It did not feel forced. It was realistic, with the exception of going on a road trip with a complete stranger (c’mon ladies, even if the guy was as hot as JM, it could still be dangerous). Even the ending felt right. It was not spoonfed and in a sense, it involved the audience in the outcome — which is always a good takeaway for the viewer.

The story was unique. Usually in Asian movies, surly successful guys fall in love with bubbly and cheerful girl next door types who are usually carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders behind their happy facade. This time, it was the sensitive, charming guy who rescues the feisty, yet broken stranger on the plane, who wore no make up, bawled for the better part of the 17 hour flight from Rome to Manila and talked about her ex every chance she got.

Angelica Panganiban deserved her award. She really gave her portrayal her all, but it was JM’s quiet presence that really got me to tear up in this movie. This guy is a charmer, true, but more than that, he’s a really good actor. I believe he should have at least gotten a nomination for his acting in Tadhana. Personally, I think these two actors were really effective because they have suffered real heartbreak in their own lives. As such, they have a strong foundation in which to source their emotions from and the movie was all the better for it.

I loved the film’s constant reference to John Lloyd Cruz and his movies which are considered some of the best breakup movies in Philippine cinema (Note: He’s Angelica’s boyfriend in real life so at times, it feels like an inside joke, especially when she is extolling JLC’s virtues). In making constant references to its predecessors in the genre, it just felt like Tadhana deserves a spot among those movies as one of the most sincere and heartfelt love stories in this contemporary age.

Speaking of references, it did not escape my attention that Tadhana constantly cited One More Chance as having excellent cinematography — For the record, Tadhana HAD excellent cinematography. It made me want to retrace Mace and Anthony’s steps and go on the same road trip myself.

All in all, I loved That Thing Called Tadhana. For a movie that had a low budget, it spoke of quality all the way through — from the story, to cinematography, to scoring, to acting. Everything was great. It was very endearing as it was entertaining. I didn’t think I would laugh so hard at a breakup movie but I did, and I did cry a time or two. (I’m sure those who have experienced heartbreak would have to bring towels to dry their eyes). Tadhana was more than a love story, it was a life story. It was not just about moving on, it was about finding yourself before moving forward to become the great person you are destined to be. An all around source of good vibes and hugotfeels, for sure.