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MOVIE REVIEW: Too Close and Too Familiar: a review of ‘Under Parallel Skies’

Explore the highs and lows of 'Under Parallel Skies' as Wanggo shares his review.

There’s a lot of misfiring happening in what should be a sure-fire success that is the international co-production ‘Under Parallel Skies’ with Thai superstar Metawin Opas-iamkajorn and Janella Salvador, under the direction of Sigrid Andrea Bernardo. By all means, this should be good. Shot in Hong Kong, Bernardo is quite adept at capturing love amidst the backdrop of a foreign lang. She did it is so capably in ‘Kita Kita,’ presenting us with the surprising kilig-worthy pairing of Alessandra de Rossi and Empoy with great success. But in ‘Under Parallel Skies,’ things are not coming together, and the movie feels disjointed and confused with what story it is trying to tell.

Metawin Opas-iamkajorn is playing Parin, a very wealthy Thai young businessman who heads to Hong Kong in search of his mother. There he runs into Iris, played by Janella Salvador. She’s working at the hotel he is staying in and as his wealthy father has left instructions for the staff to take care of him, Iris ends up working overtime to address all Parin’s needs, including helping him find his mother. In the process, they get close and discover that their feelings have grown from purely professional to something much more.

The first misfire in this film is its lack of a cohesive story. The first act revolves all around Parin’s search for his mom. While he employs the help of Iris, which lays the foundation for the love story to happen after, the goal and direction is finding the mom. Surprisingly, this is resolved faster than expected, switching the entire movie’s direction on the second act to the sudden twist of Parin and Iris dropping everything to start working together as business partners running a small cafe in a provincial, coastal area of Hong Kong while living together. But the third act is a completely different movie altogether that involves one of the character’s hidden secrets that is unconvincingly set up in act one but is never any visible motivating factor until it is revealed in the final act that turns the movie over its head again.

These multiple directions made the film feel like three different movies and never gave us any chance to really get to know the characters well or see their relationship grow into the love story that the second act wanted us to fall in love with. Bernardo fills the first act with Parin’s desperation to find his mother but also peppers the scenes with comedic moments of Iris and Parin verbally sparring or Iris taking care of a drunk Parin to set us up for the love story. Unfortunately, there’s no real chemistry happening between the two leads and the moment Parin meets his mom, the lessons he learns there holds no real learning for the character as it makes no real visible change to his life.

After an hour, as Parin and Iris start to build their little business together, I realise I didn’t know these characters at all. Parin left home to find his mom and it is implied that he ran a business in Thailand (and that it failed) and that he is the youngest son of a wealthy family, but we return to none of that. We do not know what he likes or what drives him and it’s the same with Iris. I don’t know what drives her either. She has a sister back home in the Philippines that she is estranged from, but we don’t know why. So, when the two suddenly realise they fell in love, we don’t see what connects them other than the time they have spent together. The love doesn’t come from any sense of connection other than shared time.

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It doesn’t’ help that Bernardo’s directing choices are also quite puzzling. It felt like 90% of the film was shot in extreme close ups of the actor’s faces. It capitalizes a lot on the good looks and star power of its two leads. Except that it makes the film feel very small and confined and claustrophobic. There are barely any establishing shots. The hustle and bustle of Hong Kong is never emphasized and the grandeur of the backdrop of any of the locations end up carrying no consequence for the narrative. Adding to this is Bernardo’s choice to direct the dialogue scenes (of which there are too much of) as cut-to-cut. There are very few moments that Metawin and Janella speak to each other in the same shot. Parin says a line, cut to Iris, who says a line, cut, and then Parin says a line. The characters feel distant and never actually get close when the film should be putting them together.

Homestream images from 28 Squared Studios FB Page

And this is strange coming from Bernardo who manages to use the full backdrop of Sapporo in ‘Kita Kita’ to help amplify the growing love story between her two leads, or in ‘Untrue,’ where she situates her romance/drama-turned-suspense/thriller in the gorgeous Georgian landscape. Bernardo situates her characters in a vast world and knows how to use the location to amplify her themes and create stunning imagery that elevates the work. None of this skill set is at work in ‘Under Parallel Skies.’ Very little of Hong Kong is scene and it never really fully plays out in the story – it could have been set in Thailand or the Philippines and nothing essentially changes in the story.

There are a lot of cliches that fill up the rest of the film to help fill in the gaps of the underdeveloped characters or storylines. All the elements are presents for a hit – a strong writer/director with a great track record for producing groundbreaking work, two big stars from different countries and cultures, a popular genre, an exotic location – but none of these things come into alignment and the film is way too close for comfort (cinematographically) that it leaves no room to breathe or to gain scope while the story is so thin that it resorts to familiar cliches to fill in the gaps.

My Rating:



Under Parallel Skies is now showing. Check screening times and buy tickets here.

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Under Parallel Skies
Drama, Romance
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