by Heinrich Domingo
Like Paul’s love (played by Joross Gamboa), I Love You. Thank You was unpredictable, restless, and doubtful.
Viewers love romance. Happy endings are a movie production’s secret weapon in winning over large crowd. To balance things out, I Love You. Thank You was made to introduce the unique beauty of unrequited love. Beyond this purpose, it fell flat on the ground.
Being Filipino cinephiles, we attest to the overwhelming display of pornography in gay independent films. We can scornfully claim that they serve as a substitute for the 1950s era of bomba films. Hence, Charliebebs Gohetia’s (director) depiction of gay love (without sex) was a breath of fresh air in Philippine gay cinema.
Instead of allowing himself to be carried by the wave, Gohetia decided to surprise the crowd and offer a piece that tackles heartbreak, falling apart, and finding one’s self. With this, his intentions were commendable.
Yet, as viewers excitedly line up for this movie, we see a film that is too literal in its storytelling often leaving the audience with a crackled laugh and loss of hope for indie filmmakers.
The film boasts itself of being raw, free from commercial demands of mainstream media. Its makers are proud that they have to take each scene only once and, most of the time, were forbidden to film in their selected shooting locations. This could have been forgivable – for those who are currently in film schools with an audience limited to classmates and teachers. But, I Love You. Thank You was part of the Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and is set to be screened in Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. With its international recipient, it is a shame that the film turned out to be like this.
While shooting locations and single takes could be forgivable, we are quite certain that camera shakiness and blurriness are mortal sins for any filmmaker. Let’s not even take cinematography into account. The mere usage of tripod could have been a valuable asset to the production.
As the director chose his settings such as dimly lit bars, congested bathrooms, and busy streets, it would not hurt to read a book or two on how to use a camera in such areas. Challenging one’s self is laudable but assuming the tag of “filmmakers” is an insult to a craft that has been perfected by people before you.
Despite the overly simple message of the film (unrequited love is cool!), the audience is left groping in the labyrinth of the Indochina setting. Filipino audience, unfamiliar with Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, tends to be lost on the sequence of events and story-line.
Casting of good looking actors did not salvage the film either. Joross Gamboa’s (playing Paul) outstanding gay portrayal was not able to suffice Ae Pattawan’s (playing Tang) language difficulty or Prince Stefan’s (playing Red) unconvincing acting.
Relationships of the three main characters seem to be made out of whims and impulses. And when there was nothing to do, the director decided to create a scene where the three characters (Paul, Tang, and Red) chase each other on the street a la My Best Friend’s Wedding. Only that, this film’s version was awkward and poorly done. It was hilarious. It was disgusting. It was, at that moment, shameful to be a fan of Filipino indie films.
The Philippine independent film is built by the likes of Brillante Mendoza, Lav Diaz, Kidlat Tahimik, and many others. The bar has been set high. There is so much to expect from budding filmmakers like Gohetia and his production. I Love You. Thank You serves as a reminder that there is so much work to do.