Filipino movies

‘Dito at Doon’ review: Beyond temporary fixes

Oggs Cruz

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‘Dito at Doon’ review: Beyond temporary fixes

DITO AT DOON. Janine Gutierrez and JC Santos play two people who find comfort in each other through the lockdown.

Screenshot from TBA Studios on YouTube

JP Habac’s Dito at Doon wears both currency and relevance on its sleeve

Len (Janine Gutierrez), in a mixture of frustration from weeks of being kept at home because of the pandemic and a natural need to vent out, posts her thoughts on people leaving their homes despite warnings. 

In her mind, the sentiment comes from a right place. She has stayed at home, tending to her plants, religiously going to her online classes, and keeping in touch with her best friends. She has the right to say what she thinks is right and will defend it with all her wit and power.

A comment challenges her logic. She gets riled up, forcing her to engage in a virtual argument with a complete stranger. The stranger turns out to be Caloy (JC Santos), a friend of a friend who got stuck in Manila because of the pandemic and now works as a delivery rider. Len and Caloy eventually evolve from online foes, to confidantes, to possible lovers.

Currency and relevance

JP Habac’s Dito at Doon wears both currency and relevance on its sleeve.

From its ingenious meet cute to its protagonists’ pandemic-time activities, the film is adamant in its intent to explore how social lives have evolved given the limitations of quarantine. For sure, the film is relatable, especially since the pandemic has forced everyone to focus on rotating bandwagons like tending to household plants to making the perfect dessert coffee.

Thankfully, Habac’s ambitions are greater than simply mirroring today’s times in another romance.

Dito at Doon goes through all the motions of the genre. It has all the standard tropes, all tweaked to suit the circumstances of the quarantine. 

Len has her best friends, whose narrative function is to provide some humor alongside love advice. Dito at Doon has a couple (Yesh Burce and Victor Anastacio) who adopts Len in their frequent virtual dates only to berate her about her holier-than-thou mindset. The film also provides its would-be lovers with family problems to wrestle with. Len has a mother (Lotlot De Leon) who refuses to retire from being a nurse despite the hazards of being a medical frontliner. 

At first glance, it seems Habac is content with simply churning out a rom-com whose primary deviation from formula is the lack of physicality because of the pandemic. If Habac pursued that route, Dito at Doon would have still been intriguing entertainment, a piece of escapism that treats the prolonged angsts of social imprisonment as that near-impossible hurdle lovers are fated to overcome as they head towards their happy ending. 

Thankfully, Habac, instead of centering on longings of the heart, uses the heart as a diving board to expound on the shared anxieties of these troubled times. 

A mirage, a distraction

Dito at Doon doesn’t begin with Len longing for love. 

It begins with Len clamoring for normalcy during abnormal times, echoing her thoughts on social media – the only avenue that is available to home-stuck advocates like her. Sure, an opportunity at love arrives and while Habac shifts the narrative towards virtual conversations that become more frequent as each day and week pass by, he is careful enough to never make the relationship the core of the film. The idle talk, the cleverly portrayed visual of the virtual conversations as fantasies of actually conversing within the same physical space, and the growing connections, are glimpses of what life could have been without the quarantine.

As the troubles of the pandemic start to overwhelm the escapism of an impossible love story, Dito at Doon slowly retracts from being a romance. 

The possibility of Len and Caloy turns into a mirage, a distraction from the torture dealt by the pandemic. Like the internet-sourced fads that have come and gone, the promise of love resulting from the lock down is symptomatic of dissipating hope and the continued longing for normal times. It came and became a glaring preoccupation. It went away, hopefully to become a reminder of the extent people have gone for normality in a future when the pandemic is but a memory.

Not settling for love

This is the intricate beauty of Habac’s work.

It is a love story, sure, but the quiet clamor for the once commonplace gestures of hugging and kissing that is what makes everything Dito at Doon resonate even more. It is lovely because it does not settle on easy love. It instead unspools as both an intimate and affecting portrait of a life in sudden stasis.

While debates, drinking sprees, and dates turning virtual can be a temporary fix, life is much more than those temporary fixes. –

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