Jun Lana's latest film reclaims the concept of kindness as a source of strength.
October 23, 2019
Jun Robles Lana
Unforgettable makes no qualms about its point: kindness is strength. The uncomplicated nature of the story is an oasis in the middle of a pop-cultural desert of moral ambiguity. Some films are designed to teach a moral lesson but the didactic nature of their goals tends to put off the audience. Unforgettable does not fall into the same trap as it expertly navigates the delicate balance of teaching and entertaining. It preaches but is not preachy.
Jasmine (Sarah Geronimo) has a routine: she wakes up at 5:30 in the morning, cooks breakfast, and helps her grandmother (Gina Pareño) manage their café in Baguio. Her organized life turned into chaos after her grandmother was diagnosed with tuberculosis. To prevent her from contracting the disease, Jasmine was sent to Metro Manila to live with her sisters Dahlia and Violet (Ara Mina and Meg Imperial). There, she befriended a dog that reminds her of Happy, the pooch her grandmother believes bailed her before from a serious health scare. With a singular purpose, Jasmine will do anything to bring Happy to Baguio to save her grandmother.
The cast, especially Pareño, is excellent. The parade of cameo appearances, usually a source of distraction, plays to the popularity of the stars, helps temper the melodrama, and moves the story. Then there is Milo the celebrity dog, taking on the significant role of Happy. There is a long history of animal film stars. Yet, there is hardly a local film, especially a mainstream fare, featuring one in recent years. The last I could think of is another Jun Lana feature, Bwakaw, starring the late Eddie Garcia. (Has he mastered the canine film sub-genre?)
But it is undeniable Geronimo is the heart and soul of the film. Without a leading man but paired with her most adorable co-star yet, she delivered an endearing performance brimming with care and nuance. The decision to depict a person of autism, as real as possible, shines with Geronimo’s choices of subtle tics and speech patterns. In irresponsible hands, such performance could have ended up disrespectful to a particular segment in our society. If anything, Geronimo has proven that she is a sensitive actor with more promise and potential than her present filmography offers.
Unforgettable does not dare illustrate the intricacies of human emotions and relationships. It is simple but not simplistic. Yet in some ways, the film is radical as it reclaims the concept of kindness as a source of strength. Jasmine relied on hers and the kindness of others to complete her mission. Through her, the audience sees kindness as a form of relational currency and a foundation of principles. Seriously, at present, kindness is radical.