'This Time' review: Entertaining but lacking
Nuel Naval’s This Time opens with an incessant piling of rom-com clichés, leading to the grandfather of narrative devices, the flashback.
Ava (Nadine Lustre) is a sweet young lass who has a love-hate relationship with summer. Everybody knows about this – cliché figures that include her crew of girlfriends (Donnalyn Bartolome & Issa Pressman), her delightful gay neighbor-slash-voice of reason (Ronnie Lazaro), and her rowdy and entertaining family of funeral experts (Candy Pangilinan, Al Tantay & Yam Concepcion).
Everybody knows, except the audience. Thus, the need for the staggered flashback.
As it turns out, Coby (James Reid), Ava's love of her life, is only in town during summers. They grow from childhood annoyances to teenage sweethearts during the several summers that they spend with each other. However, the limited time that they have together starts to become a problem for what started out as a promising romance.
It’s all been done before, of course.
This Time is not the type of film one goes into while expecting any drastic shifts of romantic comedy tropes. It only aspires enough to be entertaining enough. Thankfully, the film manages to stand on its own merits. While it can be surmised that the film’s existence is owed to the orchestrated rise in popularity of Lustre and Reid’s romantic tandem, it rarely feels like it was simply an afterthought just like a lot of the hurried romances and comedies that the film’s producers have been churning out recently.
The film has some really comforting charms, owing largely to Mel Mendoza-del Rosario's ability to craft a screenplay that unabashedly adheres to a romantic formula that clearly works. Naval realizes the story with a quaint understanding of both the mechanics of romance and the expectations of his market, resulting in a film that can be best described as a triumph of perfected mediocrity and levelled expectations.
Its nifty collection of second-hand ideas are neatly assembled to result in something that is both quirky and familiar.
Everything is reasonably predictable. The plot does not wander off too far from expectations. However, the little surprises that the film holds, prevent it from being an exercise in tedium, which is the danger in movies that conveniently rely on formula. There are many delights here, including the parallel romance between Coby’s grandfather (Freddie Webb) and an old flame (Nova Villa) that wonderfully climaxes in Japan during Spring.
This Time is clearly not a doltish and automatic effort to capitalize on a fad.
There are many more clever ideas. The love triangle between Coby, Ava and a closeted schoolmate (Bret Jackson) feels a little bit too convenient and illogical, but its implications – at least within a genre that can treat homosexuality as a mere sideshow – is intriguing.
Of course, the film does not sufficiently explore this, owing largely to the fact that the development does not add anything to the romantic core of the film except as a handy way out of narrative conflict. That is but an unfortunate limitation of being an escapist film.
This Time however is ultimately burdened by an underwhelming finish.
The quirks run out. The far more interesting supporting characters are either eased out, or they find their own happy endings. The film ends up with the two leads and their expected conclusion, which is to be together in a manner that is as corny and crude as possible.
The film does this via a silly sequence that pits the cheesy titular song with kitschy shots of Ava and Coby haphazardly painting each other, in what feels like the most cloying and artificial moment in the entire film. It really is quite a pathetic bow.
For once, Lustre and Reid are cast in a film where love (or at least an illusion of it) is earned through struggles and emotions that may be trite, but are at least substantial enough to carry the duo's brand of romance. Sadly, whatever little advances the film earns for its precious stars are betrayed by its inability not to succumb to cheap tricks.
In the end, most of This Time is entertaining because of its stubbornness in staying within the bounds of convention – experimenting only within reason. It is however undone also by that same stubbornness, ending up with all of its early promise being deflated by a quick and rehashed ending. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.