A typical local romantic movie is about the one true love. They are all about these life-changing romances that push one to make these grand gestures of romantic intent: song and dance numbers in public, an entire house covered with sticky notes, or a proclamation of love at the airport, just minutes before the object of one’s affection leaves. It’s all very dramatic stuff, but seems very far away from the experience of the average person. Sana Dati begins with a very dramatic situation, but settles into the smallness of its characters and their love. In doing so, it reveals the beauty found in imperfect love stories: the kind that we see every day.
Andrea (Lovi Poe) is to be married to former politician Robert (TJ Trinidad). The couple, along with friends and family, assembles at a hotel to do just that. But the arrival of videographer Dennis (Paulo Avelino) complicates matters. While ostensibly just asking harmless questions for the wedding video, Dennis has a hidden agenda that’s linked to Andrea’s past. And as the questions get more probing, and the day gets more hectic, it becomes unclear if Andrea is actually willing to go through with any of this.
It is remarkable to think of how small the movie actually is, versus how big it feels. The entire movie is basically built around a single character’s state of mind, asking whether this one young woman will decide to get married that day. The biggest events of the film—the kind of drama that we usually associate with romantic cinema—all take place in the past. But the day itself, the present being depicted in the film, is defined by its smallness. It is a story of lost shoes and impatient guests and people just trying to get by.
But what the film understands is that there is just as much beauty in that smallness as there is in the romanticized past. It manages to achieve the same depth of emotion with hands tentatively touching inside a car as it does with a dramatic kiss in an equally dramatic location. The film, at its heart, is a celebration of the smallest and most imperfect of love stories. It pays tribute to the kind of romances that most people actually experience: love minus the dramatic benefit of a life-and-death struggle. It’s just two people growing devoted to each other, finding happiness despite their relationship bearing little resemblance to those in the movies.
The film pulls this off with great panache. The technical package is terrific, the film able to get a lot out of even its most limited settings. And when actually given some room, the film really comes alive and delivers some truly memorable images. Lovi Poe is perfectly cast as Andrea. The actress has a flair for displaying emotional baggage, her every expression tinged with a sense of something lost. Her three co-actors, Benjamin Alves, Paulo Avelino and TJ Trinidad play off her quite well, with Trinidad in particular stepping up his game.
Sana Dati works with the beauty of the everyday. It eschews the dramatic clichés of cinema and delivers something more remarkable. Our cinema certainly doesn’t lack for romantic stories. Some of them are even pretty good. But few approach the depth of emotion that Sana Dati achieves. Because the film understands that there is more to love and romance than what the movies typically deliver. It is, in the real world, often far more imperfect, and far less dramatic. But it is real, and it is what we have. And the film puts that up on screen, in all its imperfection. And it is beautiful.