‘Meet Me in St. Gallen’ review: Beautifully bittersweet
A romantic movie either flies or falls on the basis of its meet-cute.
The meet-cute, a plot device where we see the future lovers first meet, lays down the basis of the love story’s journey towards its predictable ending. It establishes the conflicts, the stark difference in personalities, and even the impossibility of a relationship, only to enunciate the power of love. The best meet-cutes sow the seeds of sweet serendipity into the random encounter if only to give the love story a flourish of not just being a product of two ordinary characters’ fervent effort to find love but something that has been pre-destined.
Written in the stars
The meet-cute in Irene Villamor’s Meet Me in St. Gallen isn’t the most magical element of the movie.
Jesse (Carlo Aquino), a medical student whose studies are being sidetracked by his dreams to be a rock star, was just berated by his parents when he overhears Celeste (Bela Padilla), a graphic artist who has more ambitions than simply being employed by an employer with no appreciation for the arts, intensely arguing over the phone. They officially meet inside a coffee shop when Jesse, clearly intrigued by Celeste’s spunk, waits for his chance to strike a conversation.
From that particularly unremarkable meet-cute, Villamor carves the makings of an intense connection, one that is perfumed with the probability of fate workings its ways to bring two strangers together.
As it turns out, through their colorful and glib discussions ranging from the convenience of social media to destined love, Jesse and Celeste are perfect for each other. Villamor peppers the episode with all the tropes of the formulaic rom-com. She sneaks in a sing-along session, a drunken confession, and a blissful first kiss that seals the deal that the two youngsters are meant to be with each other. She carefully assembles all the requisite ingredients of a seamless and possibly beautiful romantic tale, only to disengage abruptly and cleverly for the purpose of reinforcing one important thing: that Jesse and Celeste’s love story is written in the stars.
Meet Me in St. Gallen is told in 3 episodes.
Each episode is structured similarly, with Jesse and Celeste fatefully meeting over coffee. Their rendezvous paves the way for dialogues, all evolving from the niceties of two strangers getting to know each other to possible lovers rekindling a disrupted passion to a heartfelt attempt to seal the deal.
Each setting complements the mood that Villamor dutifully infuses into the episodes. Whether it be some ubiquitous café in one of Manila’s many strip mall or the special snow-filled streets of charming St. Gallen, each location sets up prospects of a grand romance, one that not just begs but ultimately deserves a happy ending. Almost reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s Before series where each film carries with it the burden of an expectation of a love story coming full circle, all the episodes of Meet Me in St. Gallen evoke a sense of continuation, of a certain hope that time and distance have nothing on a love that has been fated.
The greatest conceit of Villamor’s film is that it maximizes all of the tropes of the romantic film not to arrive at the same crowd-pleasing result but to carefully dismantle all the myths about love and loving the genre has offered the public throughout the years. The characters, both of whom are convincingly and earnestly brought to life by Padilla and Aquino, are written with an ample mix of quirk and charisma, making their connection irresistible to root for.
The allures of Meet Me in St. Gallen are delicate.
Villamor navigates around almost all the pleasures of a traditional romance, but instead of pursuing escapist endeavors, she perseveres to upend the very heart of almost all love stories. The same fate that has led lovers towards their happy endings can push the same lovers to the most profound of heartaches. Affectingly bittersweet, Meet Me in St. Gallen comes highly recommended.– 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.