That Thing Called Tadhana – Where Bitter People Go To Watch

That Thing Called Tadhana is not a romantic film, nor a film that defends the sanctity of romance – such perspectives in reference to the opinion that regardless of tribulations, a relationship must last forever. This is because the film’s premise bases itself on the very simple fact that “forever” does not exist. It is an hobbesian presentation of an unsweetened and harsh truth that as life itself is brutish, so must romance be decided on this very similar basis.

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Baguio? Sagada? Nope, probably in your room. Alone. Asking yourself why you’re terribly single.

Indeed, the beginning of the movie alone already dictates the flow and entirety of the film. It begins with Mace (played by Angelica Panganiban) coming home from Rome right after her huge breakup with her ex-boyfriend of 8 or so years. Her current circumstances lead her to meeting Anthony (played by JM de Guzman) as the two go on a journey in decoding Mace’s very insecurities and frustrations from her past romantic relationship. It definitely sounds like your average (non) romantic flick, but That Thing Called Tadhana relies strongly on execution to deliver its message to the audience. Personally, I didn’t really feel any sort of romantic chemistry between the two protagonists. But that’s exactly the point that the movie is trying to portray its characters. Mace and Anthony were never meant to have chemistry, to which the story frankly strays away from the cliched “strangers turned lovers” storyline. Such tropes aren’t fitting for the film’s plot.

There are times though that I could barely hear the dialogue between Mace and Anthony. While such deliverance of dialogues are indeed realistic – going against your average “I must shout to state my opinion in a overtly dramatic way” cliche of Filipino romance – it seems that the sound director forgot to make their character’s discussions comfortably audible where you don’t need to raise sound volumes to full levels. But audibility problems in the film were more of a nuisance rather than a major errata. I also didn’t like how JM De Guzman would always have his mouth slightly open while staring at something or at blank space. Actually, you should be noticing by now that I’m nitpicking, but only because the film was well executed. Acting was decent and believable. Visuals were cutely drawn and well done in enriching the movie’s story. It had a simple plot, which is girl needs to move on with some guy’s help. A 5th grader can conceive of such a storyline, but to execute it requires a mix of patience and talent.

Director and Writer (Antoinette Jadaone) seems to have both skill traits. After all, she was also involved in the equally successful romantic Filipino film, English Only, Please. The difference, of course, between the two films is very evident. Jadaone’s previous work – English Only, Please – seeks to refresh Filipino romantic films within the confines of mainstream criteria. In contrast, That Thing Called Tadhana worked with the presumption that it would only cater to viewers of independent films. Little did we expect that the movie would garner mainstream status.

And I’d gladly emphasize that it is the very indie nature of That Thing Called Tadhana that made it alluring to the public. After all, niches in the local movie industry are slowly evolving. The age of ultra-cliched romantic movies have come to pass. They’re stale, boring – and no amount of star power could save this cliched trend from utter irrelevancy. Instead, they are monopolized among groups of teen romance die hard fans. But not everyone are die hard fans of love teams. With social media driving trends on romance to be more personal, more accurate, That Thing Called Tadhana was simply the right film in the right moment to capture this hunger for such demand.

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Yeah, not everyone is a fan of Mr. “We got it all for you!”. Neseye ne eng lehet, right?

And with the movie capturing a huge box office of P120 million, this may only set the precedence for more similarly constructed films to be shown to the mainstream public. Of course, cliched romantic films will still exist – but will move to more limited roles with a much more defined audience. But if you’re interested in seeing a grittier and personal take on romance – or the lack of it – then That Thing Called Tadhana is the perfect medicine for such desires. It does not pander to romantic dialogues, nor star power tandems – but at least it’s honest. It’s this very honesty that made it a successful and well executed movie in the first place.

Review Score: 8/10

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