In real life, we need to own up and live with the consequences of lapses in our judgement. What is done is done. But in the fantasy world of cinema, there have been several films made about an ability to break the ever-forward convention of time in various imaginative ways.
In this same vein, "Throwback Today," the debut feature film by Joseph Teoxon, attempts to answer that oft-asked question, "What advice would you tell your younger self if you had the chance to actually talk to him?"
Primo Jose Lacson is 32 years old now and jobless. He is about to be kicked out of his house by the landlord for failure to pay rent. His best friend, secret love (and companion to Lav Diaz film showings) Andie is about get married to someone else and move to Canada. This does not seem to be the destiny of someone who used to be a popular and promising art designer student back in college.
While going through his boxed things in storage one day, he unearths an old computer of his. It still works, and he decides to click on a chat program he and his friends used before and type messages for fun. To his big surprise, someone replies to his messages. Upon further online interaction, it turns out he is actually chatting with his 20 year old self! Could he actually instruct the 2005 Primo to avoid the big mistakes he had done that led him to such a lousy future?
Ever since his most memorable (and award-winning) role of Vilma Santos's son in 1998's "Bata. Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?," Carlo Aquino had always been known as a very serious young actor who can really come up with deeply nuanced portrayals of the problematic characters he played. Here in "Throwback," he gets to play both the defeated older and brash younger Primo, an acting challenge for any actor.
The always prim and proper Empress Schuck played Primo's ever-loyal doormat friend Andie. The always rebellious and liberated Annicka Dolonius played his wild child girlfriend Macy. These female characters were written to be static and one-dimensional in their ways even if Primo's life was changing. One was always the good girl, one was always the bad girl in 2017 Primo's eyes, and, consequently, also in our eyes.
His good filmmaker friends Alex and Jen (played by Benj Manalo and Kat Galang) also remain basically unchanged by Primo's standard over time. It was notable how his kind but alcoholic father Teddy (Allan Paule) would live or die based on Primo's actions, when I would think that one's mortality was independent of another person's circumstance.
As with most time-bending films, there could be a lot of plot holes if you take the time to nitpick every detail. The story of 2005 Primo moved two years up to 2007, but it did not seem like the 2017 Primo moved forward in time, since he was still not kicked out of his house yet (supposedly by month's end). When the 2005 Primo was already packed up his computer in the box, at first 2017 Primo lost contact with him, but later, how did the two Primo's reestablish contact?
At first the distinction of the two Primos was very clear cut, especially when older Primo had his mustache. However, there came a time later in the film when the time loop theme was in full swing, I could not readily tell one Primo from the other. I would eventually I get the drift from various context clues, but the time frame confusion can be distracting.
When a second concurrent time-warp communication was introduced as a twist, it actually gave rise to more questions. Whose time line was being given priority in such cases when the two linked subjects were rewriting their individual histories in two divergent ways? This was an interesting concept to be sure, but the film did not delve too much into that issue.
Overall though, the film's story was still very engaging to the end. Thanks to Carlo Aquino's earnest portrayal, you will care for what happens to Primo's character. There were some nice touches, like the wrist tattoos which change with each change in Primo's situation.
I commend director Joseph Teoxon for his audacious choice of a complex time-themed sci-fi love story (by Pertee Brinas) for a debut feature, and pulling it off satisfactorily despite obvious technical limitations. 6/10
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."