I’m extremely happy about this new wave of intelligent, daring, and honest romantic dramas that have been coming to our cinemas lately from our local filmmakers. It seems that recently, the focus has been put towards the importance of facing our own demons, growing up, and recognizing that the emptiness we feel inside can’t be filled up by other people but through our own self-reflection and choices. Only then can we truly love another person.
Antoinette Jadaone explores this very well in ‘Never Not Love You,’ but Irene Emma Villamor has done so as well, with excellent precision in films like ‘Camp Sawi’, ‘Meet Me in St. Gallen’, and her most recent movie, ‘Sid & Aya: Not a Love Story.’
That subhead of ‘Not a Love Story’ is both true and untrue. It’s very grown-up dynamic between the two lead characters, Dingdong Dantes and Anne Curtis, who plays a competitive, stressed out stock broker with insomnia who hires a barista to keep him company while he is unable to sleep.
The transactional arrangement of these two polar opposite people becomes the breeding ground for what could be a wonderful romance, if the two are willing to be honest about it. It’s a wonderful dramatic situation that Villamor mines to reflect on loneliness, feelings of abandonment, security, and the transactional nature of love.
Sid and Aya are two different kinds of gamblers. At their core, Sid gambles for his own gain while Aya gambles for the sake of the family she is supporting. They are from two different worlds. Sid, despite his corporate setup of his job and a girlfriend, is invariably alone. Aya is struggling, working several jobs, and is always in contact with the people around her — the people who need her.
What starts as a disturbing display of wealth on Sid’s part — he has so much money that he’d spend it on someone, a complete stranger, to spend time with him just because she can and because he knows she needs the money — becomes a road that opens up both character’s lives for better or worse.
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What really makes ‘Sid & Aya’ work is that Villamor knows exactly how to use her two lead actors for their strengths and brings us so close into their relationship at the right moments that even when they are holding back so much of themselves, the audience completely understands exactly what’s going on inside of them and why.
I’ve always thought of Dantes as a competent actor who gets the job done, but in this film, he fits into Sid’s shoes so perfectly that we can still empathize with him no matter how cold he can be and how little he thinks of the people around him. There is a vulnerability there that Villamor brings out and turns him into a wonderful leading man to Anne Curtis. The way he looks at her from the start of the movie until the end undergoes a subtle transformation that helps sell the love story.
But even if the movie takes Sid’s point-of-view from start to finish, Anne Curtis utilizes her effortless charm to make Aya a wonderfully complex character that refuses to be victimized by her circumstances, no matter how hard life challenges her. Curtis’ Aya is filled with life but in her quiet moments, there is a world of sadness behind her eyes, which she manages to project to the audience.
It’s not just great casting and wonderful chemistry. ‘Sid & Aya: Not a Love Story’ is elevated by dynamic camerawork, wonderfully soaring music, and editing that gives a rhythm to the film that makes you feel like you’ve seen so much in its 94-minute running time.
‘Sid & Aya’ is a wonderfully intelligent, charming, and mature romantic drama that goes all in and comes out winning big.