movie reviews

‘Rewind’ review: Second chances sell

Jason Tan Liwag

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

‘Rewind’ review: Second chances sell
‘Rewind’ is a straightforward, if simplistic, drama that is powered by Catholic values and banks on moralism

It’s easy to dismiss Rewind as mediocre. It is a commercial film filled with the kinds of tropes and clichés that critics and audiences love to scowl at. But such categorizations of good and bad are often lazy, even when I have actively participated in them. It’s a far more difficult, more valuable, and more urgent task to examine how Rewind has captured national attention at a time when moviegoing is at its most unsustainable. Beyond the marketing machinery of Star Cinema and the unhealthy monopoly that the Metro Manila Film Festival has had on Filipino filmgoing, to the point where local filmmakers struggle to make money outside of the festival’s short window, what is it about Rewind that attracted audiences into theaters again?

After the mixed commercial and critical reception to a risk like A Very Good Girl, Star Cinema, for its 30th year, has decided to return to classic storytelling. They are far more adept at tapping into the pathos and ethos of the Filipino moviegoing public, and the result is that Rewind is fairly straightforward: John and Mary are childhood sweethearts turned husband and wife. Mary sacrifices her dreams of becoming a sous chef to become a stay-at-home mother and support John, who has risen in the ranks of the liquor industry with his increasingly cutthroat personality. When John’s promotion doesn’t push through, he quits, gets inebriated, kisses his beautiful competitor, and gets in a fight with Mary. An accident happens. Mary doesn’t make it. His son is taken away by his mother-in-law. John descends further into self-destruction. But a figure offers him a second chance to undo the mess. In exchange? John offers his life.

Rewind is a cautionary tale engineered for Christmas time, when people are most emotionally open to nostalgia and redemption arcs. It follows the footsteps of many films with irredeemable men seeking a second chance — from Frank Capra’s supernatural Christmas film It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and the countless iterations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to Harold Rami’s sci-fi romcom Groundhog Day (1993) and Frank Coraci’s fantastical Adam Sandler staple Click (2006). But Rewind doesn’t have the humor or fantastical elements that power any of the aforementioned films, nor does it indulge in the mischief of self-discovery and the process of weeding out your worst habits.

Instead, Rewind, in its self-seriousness, banks on the chemistry between Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera, both of whom are returning to the silver screen for the first time since 2010’s You To Me Are Everything and for the first time as a couple since their marriage in 2014. Director Mae Cruz-Alviar, knowledgeable that this is what will bring people back to cinemas, capitalizes on the screen presence of the pair and shows us parts of Dantes and Rivera we haven’t seen in a while. Dantes, previously known for his action roles, dances to Amakabogera in a fringe lamé dress and heels, eliciting riotous laughter from the audience and hoots from a handful of women and gays. On the other hand, Rivera is luminous in her simple white dresses, conjuring a virginal and perpetually sacrificial image, one far from her videos of making Ivana Alawi cry.

‘Rewind’ review: Second chances sell

Rewind peaks when Cruz-Alviar takes us on a montage across Quezon City Circle where John and Mary, seeking to restart their relationship, slow dance to Ben&Ben’s “Sa Susunod Na Habang Buhay,” enacting the kind of romance often reserved for the screen. John encourages his son to do well at the talent show, makes amends with his estranged father, and promises to the stars that he’ll be a better husband. He even undresses Mary, carrying her to the bed, the camera panning to a photo of their wedding day before we see any more.

But one has to wake up from this daydream: John discovers that Mary has planned to migrate to Singapore in the hopes of reviving her career as a pastry chef. But more painfully, she’s also taking her son with her so he can become a pianist. It doesn’t matter if it’s a short flight. Nor that his son has somehow secured a position in an exclusive conservatory. Who cares that Mary is crying about her sacrifices? And that she’s found a place that still accepts a middle-aged woman like her? John is too fixated on his feelings of betrayal to see how he’s hurt the ones he loves; too myopic to understand that his negligence has left his family undernourished and unable to dream. He becomes angry and returns to smoking. In his mind, the evening was enough of a shift. But Mary has to be the one to remind him through her tears: “Isang gabi lang yun eh. Hindi nun mababago ang lahat.”

In October 2023, American author and cultural critic Freddie deBoer published a piece on his Substack called “Please Stop Having Your Characters Just State the Themes of Your Show or Movie to the Audience, Thanks.” It’s a short and funny examination of how many critical and commercially successful films this decade — from Everything Everywhere All At Once to Barbie — have often resorted to blunt announcements of its intentions. It is, in part, a product of media literacy being at an all-time low, but also of a moviegoing public that has become attracted to films that affirm their morals and worldview. Maybe this is a symptom of late-stage capitalism or how deeply divided we’ve become as a society. But people gravitate towards work that makes them feel like they’re on the right side of things, as if consumption is equal to participation.

Rewind’s Netflix release on the Monday of Holy Week is not incidental. Like many Star Cinema films, Rewind is deeply Catholic and touches on many conservative tenets of Filipino life — how greed tears us away from our families, envy disrupts communities, lust decimates commitment, wrath is externalized self-hatred, and pride makes us unable to see the pain we are causing others. Even its characters have biblical names. Recessions drive people to cling onto conservative values, community, and religiosity as a buffer for stress and financial insecurity.

Rewind uses a Christ-like character named Lodz (the ever-reliable comedic force Pepe Herrera) as a moral authority that has been absent from John’s life; an evangelical figure who tells us right from wrong and creates punishments for straying. Cruz-Alviar bathes him in a halo of light as he transforms from a goofy electrician into a serious figure of damnation. He is blunt with his directive — that John exchange his life for his wife’s because he is too immature and self-interested to truly be good for his family.

It is a painful realization: that we must get out of the way so our loved ones can be their best selves. But it is necessary. Rewind insists that the damage has been done, that John’s assimilation into the macho-capitalistic system cannot be rescued by a sudden benevolent pivot. So John must surrender to his irredeemability — an idea that is somewhat atypical given how leading men are often crafted to be forgivable. But it doesn’t soften the emotional blow of the decision. Nor does it detract from the altruism. Because if we were offered a second chance and such assurance, who wouldn’t take it? –

Mae Cruz-Alviar’s Rewind is now on Netflix.

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!
Avatar photo


Jason Tan Liwag

Jason Tan Liwag is an openly gay scientist, actor, and writer. As a film critic, he is an alumnus of the IFFR Young Critics Programme 2021, the FEFF Film Campus 2021, the Yamagata Film Criticism Workshop 2021, and the CINELAB Workshop 2020 and has served as a jury member for film festivals locally and internationally.