I initially saw the trailer of the indie film Kita Kita (I See You) and thought that the unlikely pair of Tonyo and Lea, played by Empoy Marquez and Alessandra de Rossi would be another comedy movie that revolves around the Beauty and the Beast concept. As I watched the movie however, I realized that the concept was merely a marketing draw to tell a much more compelling story about finding love in the least likely places (and people).
Synopsis: Lea (Alessandra de Rossi) is a Filipino tour guide living in Sapporo, Japan. She is engaged to be married to her Japanese boyfriend of five years but their wedding keeps getting postponed. Tonyo (Empoy) is Lea’s Filipino neighbor who tries to befriend her after a stressful turn of events causes her temporary blindness. The two strike up a mutual understanding but Tonyo fears that things will change once Lea begins to see.
I must say that “Kita Kita” is one beautiful story that tells of a connection built by the two characters in an excellently laid out script. The film is not without its faults and its far from being the most original film out there but the foundations of the story is so solid that it propels the movie forward.
Stright off the bat, audiences root for the characters because they seem familiar. They speak in the same way as regular folk and even corny jokes are embraced by every one of the audience members that laughter just comes naturally as the film progresses.
In the age of “hugot” films, it is refreshing to see a film that focuses on telling a story rather than be preoccupied with delivering zingers, pick up lines and one liners. Kita Kita specializes in three things – a) creating relatable and rootable characters in Tonyo and Lea, b) depicting the wonderful sceneries of Sapporo with artistic shots and magnificent cinematography and c) making the audience laugh and cry at the same time like mindless fools. It passes with flying colors on all counts.
Kudos to writer and director Sigrid Bernardo by making the journey of Lea and Tonyo so much fun. I have always liked Empoy as a comedian and he effortlessly takes this film to a whole new level by creating a character that is charming, self-effacing, flawed and yet so giving. This was Empoy’s movie through and through and while Alex pulled her weight and delivered as Lea, my main kudos for her would be for her ability to keep a straight face whenever she had a scene with Empoy. She didn’t always succeed but I give her an A for effort. I don’t think any actress could keep a straight face with Empoy around.
In terms of flow, I liked how the first part told Lea’s backstory in 10 short but meaningful sequences. The manner in which it was delivered was concise and effective in bringing her closer to the viewers. However, when it was Tonyo’s turn to tell his tale, it was even more compelling because he not only told his story but laid out how his story connected with that of Lea. At this point, without trying to spoil the twist in the story, audiences would have to decide what to think of his character – whether he was a guardian angel or a creepy stalker.
Thankfully, many of the audiences will think he’s the former because they already got to fall in love with his character as he patiently tried to be there for Lea when she needed someone to lean on. Of course, the sequencing in the story played a key role in making the film as successful as it was.
After seeing the movie, imagine the tale being told in reverse, with Tonyo’s part coming first and it would evoke a whole different feeling, I assure you.
I liked that the film didn’t try to overdo the drama and laid out just the right amount to make it bittersweet. When Tonyo pointed out the irony of Lea not seeing him when she could see, and seeing him only when she became blind, it completely shattered my heart. It was simply told, and as a matter of fact.
All in all, Kita Kita wasn’t really about the cliched take on inner vs outer beauty. Rather, it was a story of healing, moving forward and seeing not only with our eyes but with our hearts , a lesson we all need to learn before its too late to find what will make us happy.