‘Waves’ Review: Beautiful heartbreak
“Are we in love?” the voice-over of Polish-American model Sofia (Ilona Struzik) declaims in her native tongue, as she stares out the airplane window. After which, scenes of Sofia with a Filipino man enjoying a secluded beach flutter in and out the screen, edited together like an elaborate and gorgeous wedding video except that Barbara de Biasi’s downcast and melancholy musical score is playing instead of the latest Ed Sheeran love anthem.
Sofia’s beach buddy is Ross (Baron Geisler). Based on his unkempt apartment where he keeps bottles of whiskey to show how he spends his empty days and nights, he is currently jobless and without a love life.
So when he gets a message from Sofia that she’s in town for a while, he hurries to meet her in a bar before booking a trip to the beach to rekindle a romance from years ago.
All about seduction
Don Frasco’s Waves is more a mood piece than a love story. There isn’t a lot of plot to begin with, and most of what happens between Sofia and Ross is told in codes or cryptic references to their past in New York City. From their conversations, there seems to be another guy involved in the love affair they are trying to revive, one that Ross would always push into their conversations and one that Sofia would always avoid.
The film dwells on images and sounds. It heavily mines its unique location to drive a certain atmosphere of bleakness into its protagonists’ attempts at reconnection.
The beach resort that Sofia and Ross decide to stay in has just been recently damaged by a typhoon, with a lot of the huts that once served as exotic escapes for lovebirds turned into phantoms of regret. It’s an apt setting for a rekindling that is parched for hope. There is too much anonymity in the reunion, but not a whole lot of love.
Waves is all about seduction. It teases its audience to believe that there are second chances, until it slowly unravels its cynical core, which is more attuned to reality than the fantasies that moviegoers have been too preoccupied with. Frasco, who also serves as the film’s cinematographer, painstakingly paints the film with details that foretell the bitter end despite all the lovely indications of a perfect repeat of a romance.
Scott Curtis Graham’s screenplay endeavors to verbalize the film’s mostly ambiguous mood, resulting in dialogue that falters whenever it attempts to frame Frasco’s pretty pictures within a coherent narrative but shines whenever it reflects on how lax and laid-back their temporary escape is.
Waves is most enjoyable when it withdraws from any efforts at telling a story, and instead indulges on visualizing emotions.
This is the reason why Geisler and Struzik seem perfect within the film’s cinematic landscape despite their gaping lack of chemistry. The two performers represent cultural distance.
Geisler echoes a kind of conservative machismo, embarrassed upon not being able to pay for their vacation and quickly promising to pay his date just to save face. Struzik, on the other hand, expresses an impulsive and unpredictable spirit, quickly deciding to cancel a flight for the sake of a possible romance.
Amidst a broken paradise, the two weave together a story more profound than the narrative the film is taking. It is a narrative that is defined by resignation and loss, one that has already consumed the vacation house’s dignified caretaker (Pilar Pilapil) who is lamenting her wayward husband.
Frasco’s film is as fluid as its characters’ predisposition for love. It is seemingly aimless, confounded by opposing forces that could never ever meet and agree despite all hardened attempts.
Waves ends with another voiceover, this time from Ross. Spoken in Tagalog, Ross says, “I will forget you.” The lines that bookend Waves speak volumes about the love story that was never meant to be and about the lovers who were shortly sidetracked by a promise of forever.
The lines, spoken in the languages the speakers are most comfortable in, reveal two lovers separated by culture, forced to connect in English, which is to both of them a borrowed tongue, as evidenced by their distinct accents.
The lines talk of a woman’s uncertainty, and a man’s final resolve to move on. The bookends dictate at once why the two unfortunate souls can never meet eye to eye, given that their motivations for the escapade are disconnected.
With Waves, Frasco dutifully explores both the pains and pleasures of a staggered heartbreak, delivering a visual ode to all the loves that were never meant to be and the lovers who stubbornly persist through the impossible. – 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. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios