Serendipity has its moments. Such enliven the better parts of Alec Figuracion’s “The Eternity Between Seconds”, a film that docks a mutable but very real sense of loss and longing in limbo. The sleepy in-between moments in it, glorious in their smallness, are something to behold, languid as they unfurl as if time itself has stopped, be it the unexpected reunion with a friend or a simple game to pass time. The film, aptly, is set at the Incheon airport, whose vast terminals and handsome modernist architecture demand the attention of those willfully adrift.
Inside the airport, in itself a bustling metropolis, are Andres (TJ Trinidad), a disillusioned self-help author, and Sam (Yeng Constantino), a twentysomething on her way to reunite with her estranged father. Like in Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” and Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation”, films that breathe the same air as Figuracion’s, the two meet serendipitously, converse ruminatively about life, and chug a glass of cold beer. But the film’s closest progenitor is Kogonada’s lesser-known but equally triumphant, “Columbus”, in which two strangers connect with modern architecture as their backdrop.
Trinidad’s spent business magnate may just as well stand-in for John Cho’s book translator, with whom he shares a willfulness of being stuck. He’s lost three babies with his wife, and when a solution presents itself—his wife suggests they adapt—he doesn’t seem excited nor appalled by the idea. Constantino’s character, meanwhile, is at the airport to confront her father, who left her mother when she was little. Both are stuck in their own ways, and in limbo, the two make things move, and the plot—if there’s one at all—trudges onward.
The airport, cast as buoys to the character’s respective conflicts, make for a proper setting, and Figuracion, who writes, directs, and edits the film, uses it well. It’s easy to get lost in its own little sphere of transience, for which the film has Rommel Sales’ lensing and Swavesound’s music to thank, which together, drizzles the film with such hypnotic effect that you find yourself stuck, suddenly and willingly, in its stillness. The production itself, at Melai Entuna’s helm, looks prim and expensive; it’s incredible how handsome-looking the final print looks, considering its measly two-million-peso budget.
The screenplay takes its lifeforce from its fleeting moments, and though Andres and Sam meet cute as in plenty of other romance films, such moments in the film play out with lesser importance. The real treasure, after all, is what comes after. In its many conversations, the film brushes on topics aplenty—from differences between Gen-Xers and millennials to the biting trials of life regardless of which generation you fall under—all imbued with a deep sense of poignant existentialism. At one point, the film even goes on a detour to find a lost watch, taking both its characters, funnily, to find lost time.
The film, however, is not without its faults. In the fragility of its moments, the less subtle points of Andres and Sam’s discussions stick out quite sorely. Trinidad and Constantino, too, have only so much chemistry to muster together as a pair, and the latter, particularly, has a tendency of running her lines so monotonously it takes much of the studious fluency Figuracion has folded into his screenplay. Through the end, I was at the very least convinced that their encounter—somehow, somewhat—made a shift in their lives. Similarly, I’ve found myself wrestling over whether or not “The Eternity Between Seconds”, in its stretched briefness, means anything and everything to me, like a chance encounter with a stranger. Well, right now, it is.