By Redentor Lagrimas Lebantino
There may be spoilers.
“KILIG” or being giddy may just be a phase in romance. It feels surreal yet trivial when you experience it. It’s so common, it’s a sin to throw a serious mood around it. But when a conflict arises, even the ‘hugot’ lines that seem to trivialize the pain send us all to sentimentality. There is always something to dig within.
When seen in film, the expectation goes beyond the ‘kilig.’ A narrative on love must articulate what is beyond the surface.
Directed by Prime Cruz and written by Jen Chuaunsu, Ngayon Kaya accomplishes this task given its familiarity. A romance drama dwelling on regret may already be tiresome, but the film uses it to come up with a realistic and fairly-insightful proposition on the tentative. Think of love being reciprocated, or lovers beating the odds to consummate love. This film makes sure that the tentative carry enough weight to the narrative’s what-ifs.
Life moves on for AM (Janine Gutierrez) and Harold (Paulo Avelino) after college. Regardless where their respective careers took them, it does not take away the reality that they need to clear things up and reach closure.
Harold’s choice is apparently practical. He knows he can’t be a musician and so leaving for Canada is the way to survive and help his family. AM, who is rich, cannot be a doctor like her parents but leads a life of her own nonetheless. They meet at the present time knowing that their special friendship years back is not actually a thing of the past.
The film’s challenge is establishing a strong causality to the sentimentality and pain of the what-if. Ngayon Kaya pulls it off by being mindful of the characters’ humanity and context. It is not hard to believe why the expression of love we want for AM and Harold does not easily transpire.
The parallel universe annotating AM’s what-ifs fuels the film’s thematic pursuit that actually seeks to end the tentative—to be free from whatever keeps one’s life on hold, to stop longing for someone resulting from either letting go of or having that someone. Anyone captivated by the idea of an alternate fate eventually gets a dose of what is true and essential.
I read a review saying we should have seen AM do more because she deserves more. She does, but what is the ‘more’ that she truly deserves? That she must have gotten a man for her as Harold has gotten a woman to marry would be reductive. The film rightfully chooses not to reduce a woman to such a standard. The fact that the film hangs on the fringes of the tentative up to the very end makes the ‘more’ as elusive as the love affair.
Ngayon Kaya contributes to the humanization of the genre by freely painting love without having to consummate it. Its pain is not manufactured drama. The film evokes a sense of longing that challenges the practical and the real, making it deserving of praise.
Ngayon Kaya is available on Netflix.
About the author
Redentor Lagrimas Lebantino is a published author of Language and Literature textbooks and has been an editor for more than a decade. He writes film reviews and volunteers as a facilitator for a counseling center.