Review: Emmanuel Palo's A MOMENT IN TIME Tells A Story Not Worth Telling

Emmanuel Palo's A Moment in Time is an exercise in barefaced mediocrity. There is absolutely nothing in the film that exhibits any effort from the filmmakers to be anything other than fodder. 

Like an overgrown child who is unable to free himself of his parents' smothering care, the film desperately sticks to formula, inexplicably afraid of exploring new ground. Sadly, the formula has been used and reused to the point of tedium. The characters are nothing but predictable reincarnations of the countless perfect men and women whose convoluted backgrounds have temporarily separated them from their fated loves and in turn, bored their audiences to tears. While the trend nowadays is to reinvent the wheel, to tweak the formula to at least feel a bit fresh, Palo stubbornly insists on yawn-worthy safety.

Perhaps, he thinks he can fool his audience with for cosmetics. He does situate a good part of the humdrum love story in Amsterdam, where its lovers can chase each other around in bicycles against vistas littered with tulip fields and windmills. Unfortunately, the foreign city is nothing but a stage. Its gorgeous vistas, famous spots and cultural details are nothing more but empty props, hardly different from the nauseating gloss, the vapid sentimental score, and the hammy acting that identify the film as just another one of those romances that are pretty in the outside but are drab in the inside.

The story is miserably flat. It concerns the eventual relationship of Patrick (Coco Martin), a struggling artist, and Jillian (Julia Montes), the musically-inclined daughter of a very wealthy couple. They meet in a commuter train, where Jillian stalks her crush from school, and Patrick chances upon her and instantly falls for her, prompting him to paint portraits of her all over the walls of Manila. After a handful of coincidental meetings, they finally fall in love with each other, but not without the challenges brought about by Jillian's worrying parents and the looming revelation regarding the accident of Patrick's mother which eventually killed her.

Martin, whose expressive face used to be Brillante Mendoza's canvass for his various portrayals of tortured morality, succumbs to being voluntarily cheapened by blatant commercialism. Given a character that is too two-dimensional to be explored, his interpretation of being romantic has been duly limited to either being an embarrassing creep or a reprehensible sadist. Burdened by an unimaginative script that overdoes the fantasy-driven tone of escapist cinema, Martin comes off as morbidly dishonest, not exactly the proper character one roots for in romantic movies. While he manages to make his teary-eyed stares into nothingness evoke a certain pain and longing, he mouths his lines with the earnestness of an obvious swindler, making Montes' earnest efforts to reciprocate the attention absolutely confounding.

As with all commercial romances, A Moment in Time dwells too much in the convolutions of a relationship that is really not worth telling. The conflicts have the sheen of depth and gravity, but are ultimately betrayed by a resolution that is all too easy and convenient. In the end, the emotion one feels is not akin to love or any of its other manifestations. It is bewilderment and confusion. It is frustration. After all the effort of filmmakers, some of whom share credits in this film, to raise the bar in filmmaking and film watching, films like A Moment in Time are still produced, and worse, released to further dumb down the mainstream audience. 


(Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Inattention.)
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