Talk Back And You're Dead is the latest Wattpad-to-screen adapatation, reuniting the stars of the very successful Diary ng Panget is hopes of recreating the same magic. It doesn’t quite work out that way, however. It starts promisingly enough, with an outsized, raucous tone that quickly sets it apart from the average teen rom com. But then the story kicks in, and the movie mostly because bizarre and unrelatable.
Samantha (Nadine Lustre) mistakenly stands up to Top (James Reid), the leader of a notorious gang on behalf of her best friend. Much to her surprise, rather than make her suffer for her offense, Top instead asks her out. At first, it appears to be nothing more than a strange scheme, but soon enough the two develop real feelings for each other. But there are all sorts of things standing in the way of their potential happiness. There is the issue of Top’s shady past. And then there’s the revelation that Samantha is actually promised to someone else.
And then there's the other stuff. This story also involves childhood romances, amnesia, mistaken identities and weird, archaic family traditions. It's really bizarre, and the film really struggles to keep things coherent. It starts off well enough, the strangely discordant narrative meshing well with the surreal teenage landscape on screen. But it fails miserably in the end, when it parcels out the bulk of the narrative content. Many of the scenes feel disconnected from each other. A sequence where the main couple is seen fighting and bemoaning their fate is immediately followed by one where they act like nothing ever happened.
Consequently, the movie really struggles to find any emotional truth. In bits and pieces, it could be argued that the movie captures the unrelenting illogic of hormonal teenage romance, where love and hate might end up being the same thing, and what might seem like world ending conflicts are actually easily resolved. But even if we were to believe that, it still doesn't make for a watchable movie. The plot is just pure quasi-dramatic nonsense. And the production is spotty at best. The muddy sound mix squanders a great soundtrack, and the occasional out of focus shot tears into the gloss of the picture.
The film just feels hastily assembled, its only real purpose to provide another platform for the onscreen pairing of Nadine Lustre and James Reid. The two light up the screen well enough, but even their palpable chemistry means nothing in the face of the unrelenting nonsense that this movie provides them. The pair works best outside the machinations of the plot, when the movie simply gives them the room to linger in an intimate moment.
By the end, Talk Back and You’re Dead makes so little sense that it may as well be taking place in an entirely different universe. What starts out as a weird little tale of animosity growing into affection turns into a monster of melodramatic convolutions reliant on information that’s mostly hidden from the audience. It is as if the movie was just making stuff up on the fly, delivering quasi-dramatic twists every time it doesn’t know where to go with the story. And then the film mucks things up even further with a mid-credits tease for the sequel, which all but undoes what little effect the final scenes of the movie might have had. At times, the movie is at least an interesting mess. But for the most part, it’s just a mess.