Cast: Rhian Ramos, Enzo Marcos and TJ Trinidad
Directed by: Avid Liongoren
Produced by: Rocketsheep Studios
Animation interspersed in live action has long been used in both local and international filmmaking but has never been employed as masterfully and skillfully as in the 42nd Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) entry Saving Sally.
The project, which took 10 years to finish, is a testament of Filipino artistry at its best. It’s also a showcase of Rhian Ramos’ versatility as an actress, worthy to be put in the same league as Sarah Geronimo, Bea Alonzo and Jennylyn Mercado.
The plot is a very typical love story: Girl comes to the defense of bullied boy on campus; boy falls in love with her but so tongue-tied he can’t blurt out his feelings and instead draws her face and figure endlessly; girl meets a guy who shares interest with her and becomes her boyfriend; the boy becomes the bridge and messenger between the two; when he senses sinister and learns that the girl is being cheated by the guy, he makes moves to save her; finally, boy is able to let his feelings out and girl reveals she also had feelings for him before they became friends.
Ramos fits the role of geeky artist-inventor-mercenary Sally to a T. She’s beautiful onscreen, showing the right emotions in every situation, and very natural in delivering her lines.
As the nerdy illustrator-aspiring comic book artist and shy boy in love with his friend, Enzo Marcos as Marty is quite believable with his long hair and neutral accent. Only him sees the monsters and robots around as they’re actually the annoying people in his surreal world.
The script is 95-percent English and the inevitable Tagalog words, are subtitled. Impressively, the delivery of their lines—including that of TJ Trinidad as the hunk Nick whom Sally falls in love with, Marty’s parents (Bodjie Pascua and Charme Sanchez) and Sally’s foster parents (Archie Adamos and Shamaine Buencamino)—doesn’t hurt the eardrums. They’re spoken the way English-speaking Filipinos in the Philippines speak; no fake American twangs.
Additionally, the intended puns in the movie add to the fun—like “Razo,” seen in many scenes, is actually lead visual artist Jethro Razo putting his signature to his work. There’s also Sandara Park where Sally and Marty spend time together, Tuk Mall, Ka Wawa’s Store and more puns that make anyone smile or giggle.
Conceptualized in 2002 by Charlene Sawit-Esguerra as a short story, director Avid Liongoren started filming Saving Sally in 2005 with the goal, as they revealed in media briefing, “to make a film friends would enjoy.”
And Liongoren sure did. On its opening day, the film saw groups arriving in bulk at the theaters.
In this gadget crazy world, millennials especially can relate to Sally’s invention of robots to help her do the laundry, wash the dishes, clean the house and escape from their abode on the cliff when grounded by her puritan foster parents.
It’s also very realistic, and relatable for the young audience, that instead of praising the girl he secretly loves, Marty blurts out, “You eat like a pig. You laugh like a horse.”
The artwork is worthy to note as it shows the evolution of Marty’s imaginary world—the view of Quezon City from Antipolo—brilliantly executed by the UP Fine Arts Department team.
Lack of funding particularly was the reason why the project took so long to finish, until a French group responsible for The Artist, The Wrestler and Pan’s Labyrinth, among others, came to the rescue.
After reshoots, change of lead from Anna Larrucea and countless animation footages, Saving Sally is finally shown—destined for the widest audience during the festival.
It’s good that Saving Sally has been saved from the back burner and now banners as one of the favorites in this year’s film festival. It deserves more than the “A” grade given by the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB). It should be “A+.”
No doubt that it’s the harbinger of “change” and could be the sleeper hit that the MMFF 2016 selection committee was hoping to have.