Laura Molina was a vivacious YouTube vlogger traveling alone to Siargao. She just had a public break-up with her boyfriend Mikey on own his YouTube channel. Diego (aka Jigs) Punzalan was the charismatic vocalist of a popular rock band flying back to his hometown of Siargao. He just had a scandalous public falling out with his band mates in The Diego Project. After a rough start on the plane, Laura and Diego hit it off as friends as they talk about their lives and loves while hopping into various resorts and parties around the island.
Jericho Rosales felt right at home as island boy Jigs. He has got the charm down pat. He is cool and carefree, looking very good either surfing the waves or riding his motorbike on or singing while playing his guitar. When it comes to expressing the inner emotional struggle of his character, we know Rosales can deliver on these dramatic scenes and he certainly does not fail us in this regard.
Erich Gonzales is perky and lively as Laura. She had that bit of a nerdy vibe which was delightful, but she certainly donned those two-piece bikinis with fierce confidence. Her role may initially seem to be a lightweight one from whom the audience can virtually experience Siargao. However, when the pain behind her smiles came to fore, Gonzales also raised her acting bar to match her co-star.
The most mysterious character in the story is Abi, played by the equally enigmatic Jasmine Curtis-Smith. With her mestiza features, you would not immediately think of her as an island girl, but with her surfboard and sunkissed tan, Curtis-Smith never felt miscast at all. She never spoke too much, but her face and tears effectively reflected her deep yearning for something she understood may be impossible for her to obtain. The award she won for Best Supporting Actress is well-deserved.
The island of Siargao itself is very much a character of the story in itself. Early reviews have called this film a tourism video for the surfing paradise and I can't dispute that. The lush, award-winning cinematography made us all vicarious vagabonds there. Everyone who watches this movie (and sees the coves with fine white sand, the ocean so powerful yet so pristine, the languid yet heady beach lifestyle) will want to pack their swim gear once they get home and fly out there right away.
Even if it throws off the narrative a bit, director Paul Soriano made sure he integrated a message of environmental concern (possibly fearing a repeat of what the success of "A Thing Called Tadhana" did to Sagada). This pro-ecology message was so important to the filmmakers that it was reiterated and emphasized in the actual touristic video for the island shown midway through the closing credits.
Surfing was a metaphor for the vibe of life itself. We wait for the wave, we catch it, we stand, we ride, we crash, then we surface and try again. Every time we rise to the surface to take our breath, it means we are alive, and able to go through everything all over again. So face up to your mistakes, and own up to your wrong decisions. There is always a second chance. This is an important life lesson that never gets old. 8/10.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."