By Heinrich Domingo
With a badly written screenplay, Straight to the Heart was unable to hold together the many sub-stories it wishes to narrate. From HIV awareness campaign to gender fluidity argument, the film superficially discusses its advocacies and then immediately proceeds in tackling another topic. In the end, it became a mishmash of unexamined themes left lying on the floor with the filmmakers hoping that the audience picks them up before leaving the cinema.
A gay man (Carl Guevara) met an accident turning him into a straight guy. He then transformed from a happy and contented hairdresser into a brusque dude that often offended even his close friends. Because of his new personality, he lost his job as well as the people he considers his family. When all else fails, he realized that he needs saving from the same people that he recently hurt. It is the typical feel-good happy-ending movie that forces us to hate Star Cinema and Viva Films and makes us seek alternative stories from independent film fests like Cinefilipino. Little do we know that we can sometimes find colored resins in a chest of jewels.
Straight to the Heart fails in many elements. We can shrug off its unrealistic medical miracle (surviving twice from a serious head injury), but it is impossible to overlook its confusing message. First, it suggests that homosexuality is a psychological condition. Gayness can be forgotten after a person gets into a coma. Second, masculinity makes men hypersexual, rude, and unprofessional. Third, even lesbians can marry their male best friends because of, well, you guess it, love. I understand that gender discourse today works under the premise that gender is fluid and that gender identity is different from sexual orientation. Yet, for the Filipino crowd who’ll support Pacquiao because of his anti-gay stances, superficial discussion of homosexuality hurts the LGBT cause than helps it.
The sequence of events further confuses the crowd. For a story that heavily relies on the gender transformation of the characters, it is difficult to understand a plot that jumps off from one sequence to another without warning. This was largely contributed by the failed film editing. The cuts lack timing giving the audience a feeling that the film editor and the director have different intended results.
All the cast members were good in their craft. They have the potential to merit an award for a promising film. But with Straight to the Heart’s screenplay, the capabilities of artists like Vincent de Jesus, Gwen Zamora, Nico Antonio, and Pinky Amador could have been put into a more deserving film piece. The biggest revelation in the crowd is Miko Matos. Although he has proven himself in Partee and Dahling Nick, his gay role in this film deserves commendation.
When you think that this film can no longer disappoint you, it ends though falling on one of the greatest pitfalls of Filipino films – an unnecessary wedding ceremony. Filipino filmmakers love weddings. They are included even in storylines that barely need them. While the usage of this revelry can sometimes be effective, the movie’s inability to develop its characters made it difficult for viewers to relate with the occasion. It felt too awkward watching underdeveloped personalities promising to be with each other forever.
Straight to the Heart has a good intention of popularizing the taboo topic of gender. It can even claim to have a relatively deeper understanding on the development of gender discourse. But with a confusing story and inability to possess technical film knowledge, it does no good for a losing cause.