From “Kita Kita” to “Mr. and Mrs. Cruz.” Such is the knack of the current toast of Philippine movies, maverick writer-director Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, to lure audiences into the cinema just by her title. She proved this in 2017 when she pulled off the unthinkable and turned an independent full-length feature into a blockbuster phenomenon in the mainstream market.
That was Kita Kita—the story of a depressed and visually impaired Filipina tour guide in Japan, portrayed by Alessandra de Rossi, who finds comfort and falls in love with charming albeit physically unattractive kababayan in comedian Empoy Marquez. After a three-week run, P300-million in box office sales and a half-year later, Bernardo is back on the big screen with the very intriguing Mr. and Mrs. Cruz.
“I like using unusual titles—kasi title pa lang, mag-iisip na yung audience mo, ‘Ano kaya yon?’ di ba,” chuckled the petite and pretty filmmaker whose ideas are larger than life.
With the backing of Vic del Rosario’s Viva Films and Perci Intalan’s IdeaFirst Company, the pressure is certainly on for Bernardo with Mr. and Mrs. Cruz opening in cinemas across the country today. It needn’t be said that fans of her work will bring lots of expectation along with their popcorn to the screeners, not to mention having an entire industry keeping close eye on the independent-director-who-could and what she made next.
Amid all the hype, however, Bernardo is “chill” and not in a conceited way as she has this to say to admirers of her work: “Una sa lahat, nung ginawa ko yung Kita Kita, I didn’t expect a blockbuster, and I think, yung mga tao wala ring expectations nung pinanood nila yung pelikula. So mas maganda na wala rin kayong expectations dito para matutuwa kayo pag pinanood n’yo ang Mr. and Mrs Cruz.”
As to industry expectations after the critical acclaim of Kita Kita, Bernardo expressed she just stayed true to herself in making this new love story: “I just went back to my goal whenever I make a film—the story—and I concentrated on making it good or great for every one. So dapat you stick to what you want to do.”
She continued, “Ako naman gusto ko lang gumawa ng pelikula na magugustuhan ng tao. And lalo na ngayon na pumasok ako sa mainstream, importante yung personal happiness. Kasi kung hindi ka happy sa ginawa mong pelikula, ihu-haunt ka niya forever.”
So what is the premise of Mr. and Mrs. Cruz that gave its writer and director her latest shot of happiness?
According to production notes, Mr. and Mrs. Cruz is the story of Raffy and Gela who each go on a solo vacation in Palawan. Both in search of solitude, they meet and find themselves themselves enjoying each other’s company. As they spend more time together, their unconventional love story begins and flourishes until trouble in paradise come to the fore with their views in love, commitment and marriage clash.
Theater crossover JC Santos plays the role Raffy following his success as Fidel in the 2017 Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino top-grosser “100 Tula Para Kay Stella” opposite Bela Padilla.
The daring Ryza Cenon of romantic-thriller “Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B,” on the other hand, is cast as Gela.
Shot entirely in the picturesque and breathtaking island of El Nido, Palawan Bernardo promises that her latest title will bring “all kinds of mood and vibes on screen… and send the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions.”
“This movie is about relationships—love, commitment, marriage, and finding yourself and moving on. It explores the questions: are you happier if you are in a relationship or are you happier if you are single? Ultimately, it will tackle the thing that comes with love, but no one wants to really talk about: commitment.”
And whatever ending the story may come to, it has definitely made its creator happy, just as she hopes she will her eager audience.