I was charmed. I was amused ... but more so, I was awed by the sheer work of labor put into this film that mixed live action with animation. I was energized by the whole idea of Filipino animation artists finding their ground right here in this country ... I was delighted to see the exposure given to the subculture of Pinoy graphic novels, all these artists who have gained a cult following among the young and redefining popular literature not only in their art but also in their storytelling.
A certain frame of mind .. if not openmindedness is needed to appreciate Avid Llongoren's piece. It is sweet in its surrealism. It is a millennial fairy tale if not a parable ... that uses the language of modern filmmaking to cut across its message. Others will watch this film for its sheer novelty. Although full-length Filipino animated films have been shown before, SAVING SALLY is a first as far as the MetroManila Film Festival is concerned: like SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN, the choice of this work was high risk for an audience completely unfamiliar with the genre thrown into mainstream booking.
Moreover, the narrative told about Marty --- a pained comics illustrator --- and the big love of his life, Sally --- a quirky and ballsy inventor of sorts who has friend-zoned him --- is a familiar story. It has been done before, retold so many times but not in this manner. What makes this film exceptional is that it does not resort to the color-by-number tricks that commercial romance movies utilize to trigger queasy feelings from its audience. Instead, the story is told in a very quiet yet disturbing manner meant to re-create intimacy rather than sensational strokes of romance.
And that too is the importance of SAVING SALLY. It is what I deem as this whole millennial melancholia --- this sense of disenfranchisement of young people springing from who they are and what they want to become. There is a completely different language of romance here, availing of evolving technology that is reshaping the entire art of making films. This is the visualization of a parable of loneliness and love set in a contemporary time based on what is Filipino but never fully pegging itself on any specific culture.
A friend of mine complained, "Bakit sila Ingles nang Ingles? Hindi ba alienating?" I think not. Even if the characters only indulged in Taglish ever so often, the milieu represented by the animation does not pinpoint any exact place on the globe where the love story of Marty and Sally transpires. Instead, with the magical animated imagery of castles, monsters and jeepneys, SAVING SALLY exists in a world of its own.
If also for that, then the film is important and brilliantly done. It is bringing the art of the Filipino animation artist to another level, intelligently woven into the charming performance of Enzo Marcos as Marty and the feisty rendition of Rhian Ramos as Sally. What is equally significant is that ... finally, the ground has been broken to do something new for the next generation of Filipino filmmakers to explore.
Although it is still much too early to shell-shock the popular (and paying) audiences to fully appreciate mixed media cinema, well --- we have to start somewhere. And this, I can say confidently, is a most beautiful beginning.