Very much like the title, ‘Gaya sa Pelikula’ has a sheen and gloss that’s very cinematic and this amplifies the first episode’s tenor. This is definitely deep within the romantic comedy genre with its lofty and aspirational opening narration, its careful framing of its setting and milieu, and its intimate detailing of its characters.
Karl, an architecture student and online freelance writer, moves to a gorgeous condominium loft. It’s a dash for independence, but with the support of his loving parents (as seen by a video call). Right next door is Vlad, who we first see drunk and dancing alone in his unit. The first meeting of the two young men is predicated by Vlad’s loud music, which Karl asks him to turn down a notch.
The first meeting is one of annoyance, a bit antagonistic.
But there is connection between the two, unseen by the other and in the safety of being alone in their own space, Karl ends up dancing to Vlad’s music.
Director JP Habac mines the story (written by Juan Miguel Severo) for all of its cinematic potential. He is meticulous with his coverage of the scenes, using multiple shots to detail Karl (who gets the spotlight in this episode) and his first go at independence. Habac understands that the setting is key to this narrative: Karl’s gorgeous (I really can’t stress how ideal this loft is) pad is a mark of pride for any teenager. It doesn’t look cheap but it also becomes the source of the series’ complication.
Because when a client fails to pay Karl on time, he is now in a financial quandary and he has just moved in and his parents are expecting him to make it.
It is in the later half, we discover Vlad’s struggle and these two events form the premise for these two characters to become closer than they probably ever intended.
At the crux of this premise is the economic relationship that becomes pivotal for the pairing. Karl suddenly needs money and Vlad’s family problems creates a sudden option for the two to lean on each other: a financial transaction that requires the two to pretend to be lovers.
It’s clever enough how Habac and Severo spend the first half of the show by presenting us a life we would all dream of having — independence, living in a beautiful apartment, hopeful and optimistic about our lives — and then flipping it on its side by showing us that these dreams cost and it is a hefty price. How this price relates to the examination of their particular identity is probably what the show will pursue in the preceding episodes.
In the first episode, we really only get to really know Paolo Pangilinan, who plays Karl, Ian Pangilinan, who plays Vlad, and Adrienne Vergara, who plays Vlad’s sister. While Paolo inhabits Karl as the typical soft-spoken, innocent teenager, I’m still waiting to see if he can present Karl as anything but typical. We’ll see. I’m a fan of Adrienne Vergara since her performances in ‘Bliss’ and ‘Tokwifi’ and, again, she’s a completely different person here. She is effective as the voice of progressive thought and, accidentally, gives Vlad the idea for the unlikely proposition that links the two leads together.
But it is Ian Pangilinan who stands out because, even with the minimal screen time (in comparison to Paolo Pangilinan’s Karl), he infuses Vlad with a vulnerability that plays off his character’s aura of danger. There is a relaxed gait and posture to his Vlad that hints at a backstory that will surely be revealed. It feels real and fully-realised in comparison to the other characters.
The pilot episode of ‘Gaya sa Pelikula’ is a polished and charming beginning to a potentially exciting series. I’m just wondering how the title and the opening narration will fit into the rest of the show. Other than the exquisite formalism that we can see in the series’ production, I don’t see how else films and “pelikula” plays out other than one statement of how Karl loves films.
But it’s the first episode. Let’s see what else this 8-part series has in store.
Gaya Sa Pelikula is available for streaming on Globe Studios’ YouTube Channel. New episodes drop every Friday at 8pm, from September 25 to November 13.