“Sakaling Hindi Makarating” was one of the 10 finalists in the CineFilipino Film Festival, which ran from March 16-22 last year. It won 2nd Best Picture, Best Actor (Pepe Herrera), Best Cinematography (Ice Idanan), Best Sound (Raffy Magsaysay), Best Musical Score (Mon Espia) and Best Editing (Hannah Espia). It finally got its commercial run this week, almost a year after the film festival. It is lucky; the Best Picture of that film fest "Ned's Project" still has no commercial run.
Cielo and her fiance Mark had just broken up after an 11-year relationship. While her next door neighbor, English professor Paul, strikes a friendship with her, Cielo begins receiving pretty watercolor postcards showing various tourist spots around the Philippines, addressed to C, from M. Intrigued, Cielo drops everything and goes on a soul-searching trip from Zamboanga to Batanes to look for this mysterious M.
The basic idea is very simple yet so clever to launch a scenic tour around the country. The screenplay, which was also written by young lady director Ice Idanan, reflects the female psyche very well when it comes to their mindset after a breakup. She confessed in an interview that she wrote this script while in a throes of heartbreak after an 8-year relationship collapsed. It does not rely on "hugot" lines as many romances are wont to do these days, given the success of similar films like "That Thing Called Tadhana."
Alessandra da Rossi plays Cielo like a real flesh and blood woman who just lost a man she had invested her life on for 11 long years only to see it all crumble. She is bitter and miserable, not in the mood for any wisecracks, and she is in pain. Da Rossi is really one very natural actress who does not go to excesses to convey her internal turmoil.
Witty humor is the job of the character of Paul, played by Pepe Herrera. It is so profound to ponder on one of Paul's lines about moping over the past 11 years instead of looking forward to the rest of one's life. We all need someone like Paul to point out to us the silver lining around our clouds and as well as to share our progress of our recovery.
JC Santos played the charismatic character of Manuel with irresistible charm. However, the conclusion of that Marinduque episode was certainly puzzling. Terry Malvar, as the precocious 12 year old girl Sol, gets to deliver a line so heart-breaking when she meets Cielo for the first time. This moment was very well built up and very touching in execution. Lesley Lina, in her role as Sol's mother, also gets her moment to shine.
What makes this film thematically pleasing are the various artistic references. Artworks pervade its production design. There are many artists among the characters: Cielo, the painter of the postcards, the Morion woodcarvers of Mogpog, Sol's mother. Idanan also shows us a lot of beautiful sunsets and sunrises all over the country, also referred to in Sol's name.
There is a literary reference to Dickens' "Great Expectations" as the lesson Paul was teaching his class and the book Cielo was reading. This film is also aurally pleasing because of the beautiful, perfectly timed acoustic songs in the soundtrack.
While watching the film, we are so immersed in its visual beauty, it was easy to forego any minor quibbles about the plot. With "Sakali," the Philippines now has its own "letter-writing romance film" to join the ranks of "The Notebook," "The Lake House" or "Dear John."
In retrospect though, did Cielo really need to go around all the islands when the postmarks already indicate where the postcards were sent from? I do not really need to answer that now, do I? 8/10
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."