‘Dear Other Self’ review: Good intentions, tedious tales
Veronica Velasco’s Dear Other Self is a movie with mostly good intentions.
Those good intentions unfortunately do not always translate to consistent enjoyment. The movie is a tad too gentle, seemingly not interested in real conflicts as it jumps from one genuinely lovely moment to another without planting anything really memorable to keep for the long haul.
Dear Other Self opens with frazzled Becky (Jodi Sta. Maria), who is trying her best to finish her deck for tomorrow morning’s client presentation.
Her neighbors are drunkenly singing their hearts out. Her dad (Bodjie Pascua) is busy tinkering with his car. Her mom (Carla Martinez), on the other hand, is lamenting about the family’s finances. With all the ruckus, she barely finishes her deck but gets very little sleep, which results in a disaster of a presentation the next morning.
The main conceit of Dear Other Self is that it switches back and forth between two narratives that diverge that night, when Becky asked herself: what if her neighbors didn’t make so much noise, and she was able to get a good night’s rest, leading to the next morning’s presentation going very well?
She would have won the account, gotten a car, and developed a romantic relationship with an officemate (Joseph Marco), who would carpool with her out of a self-imposed obligation.
On the other hand, a different narrative: she would have been forced to quit her job, fly to Bangkok to realize her dream of becoming a travel blogger, and meet a fellow traveler (Xian Lim) whom she falls in love with.
The romances at the center of the two stories are contrived.
It doesn’t help that the movie’s two leading men aren’t very interesting characters. They are essentially rom-com constructs. They are stereotypes. One’s fashioned after the boilerplate lover who starts out as an adversary before magically appreciating her charms after a predictable scene where they kiss out of whim. The other’s just a product of convenience.
What ultimately saves Dear Other Self is its depiction of the complicated dynamics between a woman of clear ambitions and the family she needs to support.
Clearly, Velasco and co-writer Jinky Laurel are more interested in fleshing out the dilemmas of Becky. By splitting her story into two paths that present separate opportunities, the movie tackles very real desires of contemporary women who may already have opportunities for employment and travel freed up, but are still shackled by traditional responsibilities.
Sympathies towards women
It is perhaps not a coincidence that the movie seems to sympathize more with its women, with Becky, whose happiness hinges on either the predicament of her family or the decisions of her lovers, or even with Becky’s long-suffering mother.
At first, there seems to be no point in the movie telling two stories that aren’t really different from each other. However, upon closer look, what separates the two narratives are their similarly genial endings.
One ends with Becky following her man to a foreign land, while the other ends with the man following her to her humble home. Dear Other Self closes with the latter, making it seem that it prefers a happily-ever-after for Becky where she, as an independent woman, doesn’t have to keep on chasing dreams and love. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.