When the heart can truly see: a review of Kita Kita

poster.jpg
The poster of Kita Kita which the author has photographed in Robinsons Place Antipolo. 

Perhaps, Sigrid Andrea Bernardo is an alchemist of sorts, for in her latest movie, Kita Kita (roughly translated I See You) she has had turned “lead” into “gold”. Of course, we all know she’s not. To be honest, it is a gem among Filipino movies, especially in the Filipino romantic comedy (romcom).

But we all know is she’s a good storyteller, with a knack of weaving two different stories into one, just like how that old Rumpelstiltskin can spin hay into gold. I know this is a weird comparison. For what happened to the aforementioned German folklore is indeed tragic. But Kita Kita is also a tragic story though it has been “dressed” perfectly as a Filipino romantic comedy.

An overview of the magical romcom story

The story of Kita Kita revolves on the lives of two different people— Lea (played by the multi-awarded actress, Alessandra de Rossi) and Tonyo (played by Julius “Empoy” Marquez, a comedian), both are Filipino migrant workers in Japan that have become intertwined because of painful circumstances.

Lea lives in Sapporo, the fifth largest city in Japan, while Empoy was from Tokyo. The latter had decided to go to Sapporo, all drunk, to start his life anew after a very painful breakup. In Sapporo, he will eventually meet Lea, who works as a tourist guide and got engaged to young Japanese Nobu; and just like what happened to Tonyo, Lea’s heart was smashed into pieces because of the infidelity of her fiancé. Nobu hooked up with her co-worker, a hafu (half-Filipino, half-Japanese). And that night of a non-violent and silent confrontation, Lea suffered from temporary blindness. This is their sweet and lovely story begins in the very heart of Hokkaido, an allegory of the title Kita Kita as it meant “North” in Japanese; though the makers of the film said that this was just a coincidence.

But let me tell you 10 good reasons why Kita Kita is one of the best Filipino romantic comedy movies that we have today and why you should watch it now:

  1. It is the story of the ordinary.

First of all, it is the story of ordinary folks—overseas Filipino workers—trying to make a living in the Land of the Rising Sun. It shows the typical days of immigrants who are working their ass off just to earn a living—which brings me to my second reason why you should watch this movie.

  1. It tackles about migration and overseas work.

Citing a 2016 government data, Migrante International said that in 2015, 6,092 Filipinos leave the country, every day, to work abroad.

Labor export in the Philippines has actually started in the 1970s, as the oil industry in the Middle East boomed. Because of the lack of opportunities here, Filipinos tend to flock overseas, where work is available and the salary given is relatively high.

Most people think that Filipinos working abroad have a very comfortable life. But this was far from truth.

Filipinos abroad need to endure lots of hardships just to make an income and to sustain their families back home. There were times that their rights are abused, their welfare neglected, and some even comes home sick, insane, or dead. Moreover, there are lots of Filipinos who are victims of modern-day slavery, according to the 2015 report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

While far from “sad,” Kita Kita still, is an OFW story.

At the very first scene, you would see Lea prepping for her work—juggling different works for her to pay her bills, to send something back home (perhaps, to her elder sister whom we have seen in the movie, but I think also lives in Japan for she had had the chance of, somehow, taking care of her younger sister’s needs when Lea suffered temporary blindness.  In one phone conversation, you will hear her ate’s (ate, pronounced as ah-tēh in Filipino or the Tagalog language means elder sister) dismay when their wedding would not push through, as she has already filed her leave from work.

  1. It is a story of a strong, independent, and a kind-hearted woman. 

Kita Kita is also a narrative of a strong, independent woman personified by Lea—a hardworking and intelligent woman living in Japan.

Observing Lea’s character, you will find her amusing and amazing. She is friendly and bubbly, and not to mention that she’s willing to help even a complete stranger, in the person of the broken-hearted, drunk, and stinky Tonyo whom she finds lying in the gutter. She mistook Tonyo to be a homeless person and began giving him food, water, and even a blanket.

Because Tonyo was devastated and opted to stay on the street where Lea lives, he doesn’t even take a bath. This is when Lea has decided to tell the sleeping Tonyo to take a bath (and even gave him soap and shampoo!) because he stinks!

  1. You will know that aside from being coleslaw, cabbage is a vegetable of happiness.

I thought it was a farce, but it is true!

In the movie, you will see Lea has been giving Tonyo a hefty amount of cabbage for his food.

According to a report by the Telegraph – UK in 2012, eating greens—including Lea’s cabbage—indeed helped Southeast Asian people to become happier and healthier.

Meanwhile, according to the health and a nutrition website, OrganicFacts.net, cabbage can help you combat depression! That explains why Lea’s strong conviction that cabbage, indeed, is a happiness veggie.

(For other benefits of Lea’s cabbage, you can read about it here, here, and here. But for the contra-indication or the possible ill effect of eating too much cabbage to your health, you can read it here and here.

  1. It will show you Alessandra de Rossi can do comedy. 

We’re used to see Alessandra de Rossi doing heavy drama and horror, but in this movie, you will see the lighter side of this prolific Filipino-Italian actress.

  1. You will find that Empoy Marquez is a true actor, a gem of the Filipino movie industry.

Empoy’s acting in this movie is surprisingly amazing.

The “guwapong-guwapo sa sarili” comedian has showed his serious side in this movie as the wrecked Tonyo, who fled Tokyo to find hope and happiness in the City of Sapporo.

Of course, a natural comedian as he is, you will laugh at him more, more than you would cry for him.

Truly, Empoy is a new-found gem in the Filipino movie industry when it comes to comedy.

  1. You will see the beauty of Hokkaido and also will make you want to drink Sapporo beer.

Actually, the movie will make you decide to backpack and fly straight to Hokkaido, and stay at the busy city of Sapporo to enjoy ice cold Sapporo Beer, packed in large cans.

Sapporo Beer, though not actually from Sapporo, but from Tokyo (the city where Tonyo came from), and it is the oldest beer brand in Japan.

  1. You will realize what the dictum “Saging lang ang may puso” really means. 

We often say that banana is the only plant that a heart. In this movie, you will realize that the “banana” truly has a heart as it tries to comfort the broken hearted girl, wearing a heart costume.

  1. You will believe in the healing power of love.

Omnia vincit amor et nos cedamus amori (“Love conquers all; let us all yield to love!”), says Virgil in his famous Eclogues.

In the story, you will find that amazing power of love to heal and conquer even the deepest pain and sadness, which ironically brought by love itself.

The recovering Tonyo had helped the blind and broken Lea to recuperate, and to believe in love once again.

  1. Lastly, a movie should not always end in happy endings for it to become beautiful. 

Bernardo’s Kita Kita is a tragic romcom but you will realize that it must happen for the movie to end beautifully.

Its tragic ending has added much weight to the movie and it also bring into the fore one of the greatest paradoxes in life—pain in itself is a happiness dressed differently.

As Kahlil Gibran wrote in his famous The Prophet,

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. 

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be? 

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

 

***

Kita Kita is a powerful movie because it has defiled the convention of pairing a beautiful actress to a beautiful actor to make it more “kilig” or more romantic.

The chemistry between Empoy and Alessandra is just simply superb, and their comedic timing is just amazing. In fact, Alessandra-Empoy tandem is just a riot.

But there were times that you would shed a tear or two, for it is also a story of brokenness, of devastation. The greatest sorrow that you can feel is the sadness and the pain that a failed relationship can bring.

The true strength of the story is its naturalness and simplicity, but without sacrificing depth and meaning.

Truly, this is a film that you should watch and it deserves ♥♥♥♥♥.

By the way, the film was produced by Spring Films and Viva Films.

For other reviews, you can read it here, here, here, and here.

 

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