There’s a breath of fresh air in directors Jun Lana and Perci Intalan’s ‘Unforgettable’ with Sarah Geronimo. It is a film that is unashamedly good-natured and cheerful that it really stands out in a cinematic landscape that is filled with all-too-real depictions of the world in all its cynical and jaded glory. ‘Unforgettable’ serves as a reminder that there is still goodness around us and that all it takes is just a little bit of kindness.
The story revolves around Sarah Geronimo’s Jasmine, a young woman with an unidentified mental disability. It is unclear or unspecified whether she has asperger's or if she’s in the spectrum of autism but it seems likely. She lives alone with her grandmother, played by Gina Pareno, in Baguio in relative peace. But when Jasmine’s grandmother gets tuberculosis, Jasmine must move to the city to live with her sister Dahlia (Ara Mina) while her grandmother gets better in the hospital.
But unlike her grandmother, Dahlia is not tolerant nor understanding of Jasmine’s condition. Dahlia finds Jasmine spoiled as her condition makes her prone to tantrums when she doesn’t get what she wants, and she has a tendency of being tactless because of her inability to read social cues. Jasmine is frank, candid, and honest, and in a society that favors politeness over all, it can get her into a lot of trouble.
When Jasmine comes into contact with a dog, one that somehow looks exactly like her grandmother’s dog from her stories, Jasmine insists on bringing the newly named “Happy” to her lola in Baguio against her sister’s wishes. ‘Unforgettable’ then becomes a road trip movie from Manila to Baguio where Jasmine and Happy meet a whole bunch of people (all played by big stars like Yayo Aguila, Kim Molina, Anne Curtis, Marco Gumabao, Dennis Padilla, Alessandra De Rossi, and so on) and their lives are all enriched by each others interactions.
At the center of it all is Sarah Geronimo who gives a fully committed performance as Jasmine. Even without specifying her condition, Geronimo manages to competently portray the signs of autism: inability to make eye contact, inappropriate social interactions, monotonous speech, intense focus on one topic, and behavioural disturbance (such as tantrums). Sarah Geronimo commits fully to the character while fully utilizing her charisma to keep Jasmine from being comical or a caricature.
Because of this committed performance, not everyone shines when working alongside a character who has a difficulty connecting. The most successful of her co-stars to truly shine in their roles and engagement with Sarah Geronimo as Jasmine are Ara Mina, who wonderfully captures the frustration of someone who doesn’t understand her sister’s condition; Yayo Aguila and Kim Molina, who show a hilarious and heartwarming relationship as a provincial mother-and-daughter tandem that serves to gain the most from their meeting with Jasmine; and Anne Curtis and Cherie Gil, whose cameos feel like tongue-in-cheek parodies of themselves or characters they’ve played.
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Of all the others who did not fare as well, the episode of Dennis Padilla as a taxi driver with less than good intentions comes off as really off putting in performance. It’s such an over-the-top by Padilla in a scene that’s difficult to sympathise with. It’s the most off-putting in all of the film.
Otherwise, ‘Unforgettable’ is just a lovely feel-good movie about the power and magic of kindness and tenderness. There is an almost ‘Forrest Gump’ feel to the movie with a delightful Filipino flavor. The staging and coverage of many of the scenes feels better suited to television and streaming than it does to cinema. The narrative is so focused on the personal and intimate aspects of Jasmine’s tale that it never really fills up the whole cinema screen. I feel that this would be strongest in the small screen where the closeness to the subjects would greatly benefit the storytelling. As a movie, it feels small.
But it’s great to have a film like this; one that reminds us that the world really needs a bit more kindness. It’s a refreshing reprieve from the string of dark and cynical movies we’ve been seeing lately. In this regard, a bit of escapism won’t be so bad, especially if you have the charming Sarah Geronimo taking the lead.