FILM CHECK | “Sakaling Hindi Makarating” has poor plot, bucolic charm

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A meditative Alessandra De Rossi. (Image courtesy of "Sakaling Hindi Makarating" Facebook page)

Heartbroken Cielo (Alessandra de Rossi) moves into a new apartment in Cubao soon after her ugly breakup with Mark (Jay Gonzaga), her boyfriend of 11 years. Still pissed and angry, it takes her time to warm up to her smitten new neighbor, and would-be-friend, Paul (Pepe Herrera).

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What irks the jaded and bitter Cielo even more is the mysterious hand-painted postcards arriving in her new apartment every now and then. These postcards, or “little paintings,” showcase various exotic destinations in the Philippines, with lovesick and poetic messages to “C,” as in “Cielo,” right?

Receiving these romantic postcards with no return address and signed simply by “M,” Cielo becomes highly disturbed. Does she have a secret backpacker admirer with a penchant for old-fashioned communication? Or is it from her ex-fiance Mark?

Paul urges the broken Cielo to take a break and go for a much-needed vacation. Her travel plans? Guess the local destinations on each postcard, visit every single one of them and perhaps catch the mystery sender-who-could-be-her-soulmate.

The premise is immediately problematic in many ways. Sure, Cielo is no Sherlock, but she missed glaringly obvious answers to the “mystery.”

First, she should have already ruled out Mark as the sender, because in her 11-year bacon-bonding relationship with him, she should have already known Mark’s penmanship, painting style, and whether he’s a poet who enjoys traveling.

Secondly, it can’t be merely a new admirer because the content of the love letters demonstrate a long, deep romantic history between sender and recipient, of love and loss, memories and separation. It’s obviously a letter from an old lover, not from a remotely infatuated guy.

Thirdly, and the most astonishing flaw, is that that postcards are postmarked (to those who never experienced sending snail mails, postmarks indicate the location of the postal service that delivered the mail). So why travel to the postcard’s pictured destinations for clues of the sender’s whereabouts? When it’s already plainly stamped on the postcard?

Perhaps a broken heart also muddles the mind. And I guess neighbor Paul, who is also a teacher, is too smitten with Cielo to point out the obvious.

So we ride along and follow Cielo from Zamboanga to Batanes, searching for “M.” Her journey gives you a form of escape, triggering that inner wanderlust with views of sunsets, sea, and mountains. The new sights, the foreign sceneries and the people she meets heal you along with her.

A homely looking De Rossi, who seems to have skipped showers during filming for a more authentically depressed role, exudes the right amount of broken. She plucks us out of the cinema seat and effectively takes us on her journey to self-healing. I just can’t understand why she has to speak too fast that she is barely comprehensible.

Three actors stand out: Pepe Herrera, JC Santos, and Karen delos Reyes, relaxed and effortless in their roles. The rest, including De Rossi, has a hint of forced naturalism. Also, all the characters sound Manila-born, ruining the authenticity of the provincial destinations.

Ice Adanan’s “Sakaling Hindi Marating” has a tragically flawed premise and a poorly written plot, but it moves the story along with its earnest storytelling, poignant and hopeful mood, and bucolic charm.

CNC rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Opened February 1, 2017 in Philippine cinemas

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