Christine Lazaro was an idealistic arts student from UP. Rafael Toledo was a pre-med student from UST. They became sweethearts soon after Raf fell in love at first sight with Tin ever since he first saw her as a tour guide at the Spoliarium exhibit in the National Museum. They seemed to be the perfect couple until Tin suddenly called their relationship off for reasons she never let Raf know.
Fast forward five years: Tin is the secretary of a busy businessman Gregory Fausto currently undergoing an annulment of his marriage. Raf, now an emergency room physician in a government hospital, has just received an award for his exemplary public service as doctor to the barrios in Dinagat Island. Sheer serendipity led to Tin and Raf crossing paths again. Will they rekindle their interrupted love, despite having respective significant others?
Writer-director Antoinette Jadaone certainly knows how to tell a story of romance. She had written and directed some of the best Filipino romance movies in recent years, like "That Thing Called Tadhana" (2014), "Love You to the Stars and Back" (2017) and "Never Not Love You" (2018). She continues her winning streak with "Alone/Together."
Jadaone has the uncanny ability to write lines based on the personality of the actors playing the characters, so their dialog just rolls off very naturally, as if they'd say these words to each other in real life. She also knows very well how to mine the chemistry between her two stars. She has the knack to create ticklish thrills, as well as draw out tears.
I think Jadaone goofed a bit with the five-year gap between their break-up and reunion, when it came to the meteoric speed of Raf's medical career. When they broke up, Raf was still not done with his premed. Yet in five years, he was able to finish his med school (4 years), internship (1 year), serve as doctor to the barrios long enough to merit a TOYM award (surely more than 1 year), and now serve as emergency room consultant (which requires a 3-year residency).
For a story that spanned several years, the running time was short, only 1 hour and 40 minutes. From the beginning up to the peak of the plot which took place in bustling New York City no less, the pace of the storytelling was brisk and engaging. However, after the Big Apple scenes, the pace sort of slowed down and felt too long. Some parts in Act 3, like the dinner scene of Tin and Gregory or those meet-up scenes in the ER parking lot, felt awkward and unrealistic.
This is the first feature film of the LizQuen love team that I have seen, and I was impressed with their acting skills. They both started off as simple unglamorous college kids, hardly any makeup, pimply oily sweaty faces, but blissfully happy. Later they mature into well-dressed, sophisticated adults, yet full of regrets and what-ifs. The transition was smooth and subtle for both of them, not only in how they looked, but also their voices and demeanor.
The best scenes of the whole film involved two emotionally charged proposals. There two very heartfelt scenes were so richly played by both Soberano and especially Gil at their best. Their delivery of lines were so effectively affecting, such that the words go straight to the heart and linger there. We will definitely feel how time had been so much against their favor despite being seemingly so right for each other.
The supporting roles were played by veteran actors: Sylvia Sanchez as Tin's kind mother Hilda, and Nonie Buencamino so subtly gay as Tin's mentor Sir Alwyn. Adrian (formerly Luis) Alandy played Tin's boss and much older boyfriend Greg. After her featured role as Jericho Rosales ex-girlfriend in "Siargao," Jasmine Curtis Smith was cast in the role of Raf's new girlfriend, Aly, a resident training in the ER.
The cinematography of the New York scenes were topnotch, also bringing us into the MET and the Guggenheim museums. The mood was enhanced by the ‘90s musical soundtrack, with Eraserheads "Spoliarium" (the subject of Tin and Raf's first debate) and Rivermaya's "214" (with that iconic intro totally enveloping that nighttime Sunken Garden scene with emo vibes).
On overall assessment, even if it is only February now, "Alone/Together" will definitely be among this year's best films.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."