That Thing Called Tadhana is a breath of fresh air in an industry filled with uninspiring romantic comedies. It strips away the excesses of the genre and sticks to its essential (but forgotten) core: genuine human connection.
As an avid fan of Jadaone, I was lucky enough to attend a Q&A screening of the film during the 2014 Cinema One Originals Film Festival. She shared much of her insights in the film’s creation. Jadaone displayed her fondness for Star Cinema classics Don’t Give Up on Us and the popular One More Chance, which clearly shows in the film.
The film begins with a common Filipino traveling problem; avoiding excess baggage. Mace (Angelica Panganiban) has just broken up with her boyfriend and is ready to leave Rome for Manila. Unfortunately, she cannot board her flight due to her luggage conundrum. In comes Anthony (JM Rodriguez), another Filipino on holiday, offering to help her. He suggests that she place some of her things in his bag since they’re on the same flight anyway so they can both get home. She agrees and so begins a wonderful journey about love, recovery, and destiny.
One of the most remarkable things about the film is its metaphor of “excess baggage”. As a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve, Mace displays a deep hurt with her excess baggage. Anthony tells her to simply forget her ex and gradually move on. She tells him that it is impossible as everything in this world reminds her of her ex, showing how much her world and life plans revolved around him. Anthony takes it upon himself to use his last vacation day to travel up north with Mace to help her move on. As time passes, we see them naturally bond over a vast number of things. Eventually, layer after layer is removed and Mace finally transcends towards clarity and peace of mind.
All these wonderful character interactions are made possible by its cast. Angelica Panganiban was an easy choice for Best Actress during the fest with her give-all performance. JM Rodriguez provides a nice contrast to the passionate Mace with his naturalism and quiet charisma. These two provide a sense of lighthearted but realistic fun in a genre replete with engineered conflict and manufactured kilig.
Apart from the metaphor of excess baggage, my favorite part of the film was the story that Mace had written. It is about a heart and arrow who get stuck together and it perfectly parallels the film. It’s simple but emotionally resonant. Just another reason why Antoinette Jadaone is one of the best local screenwriters today.
The problem with the industry surrounding the Philippines’ #1 film genre today is that it can’t keep itself fresh. It needs new voices to lessen the boiler-plate products. Cathy Garcia-Molina’s One More Chance was a revelation in 2007. However, this created an era of films that has tried to replicate its success by aping it in one way or another ever since. This is where Jadaone comes in.
Ever since her film critic days and Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay, I knew that Antoinette Jadaone was the last hope of Star Cinema. She provided a nice “middle” between reverence for mainstream tropes and indie sensibilities. Like other millennial filmmakers, she imbues her work with a level of self-awareness and metafiction that gives it a distinct flavor. As seen with Tadhana, her work may be inspired by One More Chance but it is its own animal.
With the film set for a nationwide release, I hope it serves as a major transition point, not just for Jadaone’s career, but for the future of Philippine mainstream cinema as well.
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars