Movie review: JM, Rhian make 'Kung Paano Siya Nawala' hard to forget

Fred Hawson

Posted at Nov 17 2018 02:32 PM

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There was an interesting medical condition that underlay the film "Kung Paano Siya Nawala," a condition I never knew existed before -- face blindness. This was defined as a brain disorder characterized by the inability to recognize faces, unrelated to vision, memory or learning dysfunctions. The proper medical term of this condition is "prosopagnosia." I am not sure if they had an actual patient on which to base an accurate portrayal of the symptomatology on, but I trust their research had solid basis as this film certainly made sure we felt the confusion the protagonist felt. 

One day, while call center agent Lio was taking a breather outside a bar, an attractive girl Shana casually sat beside him and asked if he wanted to make out with her, and they did. However, the next time Lio met Shana in the coffee shop where she worked and then again on the street, he always failed to recognize her, much to Shana's annoyance. Lio confessed he had face blindness, which made him unable to recognize new faces. 

JM de Guzman consistently gives his characters a depth that few others in his generation could. As Lio, he was an introvert and a cynic, characteristics his condition gave him since he developed it as a child. He lived with his flighty mother Elly (Agot Isidro) and younger sister Lexy (Barbara Ruaro), and lately, his long-estranged father (Teroy Guzman) is trying reach out to him to reconnect. As with his previous roles, de Guzman had mastered how to play these stoic, secretive guys who said little and struggled to keep their emotions in. 

I knew Rhian Ramos but I have not really seen her in a lead role until this one. She was in "Saving Sally," but I only heard her voice there, and in "Trigonal," her role was very short. Her Shana was a quirky joker, a girl living the consequences of a shady checkered past. She was a complex, contradictory character, a challenging handful even for regular boyfriend. Ramos embraced all these flaws and imbued her Shana with an irresistible charm and natural warmth to make up for them.

The title alone already hinted at how the love story of Lio and Shana would most likely go. However, director Joel Ruiz presented his story with Ike Javellana's beautiful images which somehow softened and even uplifted the downbeat mood. He took full advantage of his stars' effortlessly photogenic chemistry to create some memorable moments. 

Apologies had rarely been so deeply expressed than with that giant teddy bear scene. Forgetting had rarely been so eloquently represented than with that climactic montage. The nebulous ending will make you gasp and sigh. 8/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."