Thursday, January 05, 2017

‘Saving Sally’ Is as Delightful and Groundbreaking as I Was Hoping It to Be

To be honest, there’s only one MMFF movie I was meaning to watch.  I only went see Vince & Kath & James and Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2 #ForeverIsNotEnough because I thought Saving Sally wasn’t being shown yet where I live in (I only frequent one cinema, and it only had these two plus Seklusyon and Die Beautiful).  Fortunately, I discovered that it was split-screened – scheduled for two showings at night – in one of the local malls’ theater.  Boy, was I happy.

I was greatly charmed by the trailer for Saving Sally.  After watching it, I just knew that I was going to love this movie.  And indeed... I FRIGGIN' LOVE THIS MOVIE!
Saving Sally took twelve years to make.  Understandable, considering the fact that the Philippine filmmaking industry in general hasn’t gained yet the necessary technology, big studio support, logistics, passion, confidence, and vision to make this kind of masterpiece in a regular basis.  Hence, Saving Sally is truly groundbreaking.  And with its creators – a small-sized staff doing the work that is usually done by hundreds – not giving up on it until it’s finally realized on screen truly makes it an epitome of a “work of passion.”  This sentiment is something that seeps on screen as I watched it.

Saving Sally tells the story a teen named Marty (Enzo Marcos), an aspiring comic book artist whose love for comics is only surpassed by his love for his bestfriend Sally (Rhian Ramos), a feeling he keeps to himself ever since she saved him from a school bully.  Meanwhile, Sally is living with Nazi-esque parents, who are not only very strict but also beats her up often.  Being a brilliant inventor, Sally copes by building various contraptions – some to make her chores easier, some for fun.  Marty, fully aware of what’s happening at her home, is as helpless to do something about it as he’s as helpless of confessing his love for Sally.  Unfortunately, his wariness to tell his feeling costs him one day – dooming him to be “friendzoned” indefinitely – when Sally gets an older, alpha male boyfriend named Nick (TJ Trinidad).
The plot is generally well-written, though it’s a pretty familiar one.  But what really makes the storytelling delightful and interesting is the visuals that accompany it.  The narrative plays out with the aesthetics of how Marty perceives the world to be: a cartoon environment with cartoon physics (or is the world in this movie’s universe really does look and behave as what’s shown?).  Moreover, to Marty, bad or inconsequential people look like monsters.  All of these are animated quite fantastically, with live-action and animation meshing seamlessly.  The overall result is an extremely immersive unfolding of its story, with its emotions, tones, and transitions enhanced due to its gorgeous visual style.

The visual style also results to some clever visual gags.  Most noticeably is how Marty sees Nick.  For Marty, Nick is a dick.  Thus, the animated form of Nick is that of a penis-looking monster.  Dick jokes (along with fart jokes) are probably the most juvenile of humor.  But in this case, it perfectly works with its inherent concept.
The performances are great, too, as they’re as colorful and compelling as the visuals.  Enzo and TJ deserve praise, but Rhian Ramos easily stands out, showing a depth and charm that I never noticed about her before.  I’ve never been a Rhian Ramos fan.  But after Saving Sally, she’s now definitely among my list of celebrities I wish I can have picture with.

My only nitpick – a very tiny, insignificant one – is that the dialogue is mostly in English.  There were some Filipino lines spoken, but English is the main language of this movie.  I admit that it makes the narrative more coherent and sophisticated.  But, in my opinion, this movie would have solidified itself more as utterly “Tatak Pinoy” if the Filipino language was used more.
Nevertheless, I really think this movie is just perfect for what it is.  Again, I love it.  A lot.  Maybe I’m simply raving because it’s something unique and new for a Filipino film, that it might not look that great with an international benchmark.  Maybe.  It’s just that, for someone like me who loves comics, loves animated films and movies in general, and really wants to see the quality and popularity of Filipino movies and Filipino pop culture in general to improve, Saving Sally does have a profound impact.  It feels like an uplifting achievement of sorts.

Regardless, I genuinely think that Saving Sally is an objectively awesome movie – by local or international standards.  In fact, I’m seriously considering of giving it the top spot of my best movies of 2016 list.  Even if I eventually don’t, I don’t see it falling from the top five.
Man, I just hope Saving Sally makes a ton of money.  Sad to say, but it’s simply reality: inspiring other movies of this quality to be made in the future heavily relies on profitability.  It’s all about the money.

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