Waves are the only physical manifestation of energy on this planet, ask any surfer. You can see the energy, you can feel the energy, you can ride the energy – waves are amazing. Think about it, they are our access to understanding a phenomena that drives our very existence. They let us grasp the intangible.
Waves is the debut feature from Filipino filmmaker Don Frasco but this is not a surfing flick. This is an exploration of the machinations of long distance love and an an intense character study of two who once were and are now again. Two lives that are compelled together despite circumstances that keeps them apart. It is this study and these characters that allow us to understand the primal drive of love and lets us grasp at the possibility of a deeper knowing. Where will they go?
This is a beautifully shot film set on a beautiful isolated island holiday resort. It’s the place lovers dream of and is a showcase of the northern Palawan in the Philippines. When Sofia (Ilona Struzik) is in transit between a South Korean modeling job and home, she randomly contacts Ross (Baron Geisler), an old flame from her past. What starts as a two hour catch up between flights soon becomes a little fling for a night or two, for old times sake but on the proviso that they don’t talk about Richard. He is Sofia’s beau waiting fondly for her to return home to New York. Agreeing to the deal, the couple escape to their island getaway but it’s their time in paradise that slowly reveals a deeper story, a deeper connection where their denials crumble and we start to see the real Ross and Sofia.
Waves is essentially a two hander set on a not quite deserted island, so once the joy of the beautiful scenery and the gloss of the cinematography has worn off, the spotlight is well and truly on this character study. Some interesting editing techniques are used to varying degrees of success to forward the story and to break the monotony. Interesting jump cuts between lip sync and voice over are admirable but gains attention as technique rather than its intended use of adding depth to character and conversation. Some arresting reversal of visuals within a montage are more successful at allowing us into their psyche but again dominate as technique rather than character. This is the same with some speed changes and timelapse in other scenes. They serve as visual variation in a one setting story but they fail at their intended use of getting us deeper into heads of Ross and Sofia. This is a shame because my one complaint about this film is that it all becomes a little bit too slow.
As the film progresses a disengaging of the characters occurs and a feeling of being forced slowly takes over to the point where a climactic scene featuring some magnificent whale sharks barely makes a blip on the screen beyond the thought that it was either a very convenient and striking visual or possibly just a fairly cumbersome metaphor. It’s possible that just too much has been bitten off here to sustain us for the duration.
Today, independent Filipino cinema is very healthy and is fertile ground for some amazing talent, the likes of which have been recognised around the world. Be it a Brillante Mendoza (Thy Womb, Sapi), a Lav Diaz (Norte, the End of History) or an up and coming like Hanna Espia (Transit) there is a fine pedigree coming out of this country where its films are exciting and the standards are high. Don Frasco is in fine company and a part of contemporary Pinoy pride. However, the overall feeling of Waves is that the setting, the shots, the acting are all good but maybe it is the story that leaves us a little short.
This is the enigma of filmmaking; there is an element or a combination that won’t let us get to that ‘sweet’ spot. Waves is an ambitious film, it is an admirable film and it’s a wonderful showcase of acting, location and craft. As a debut, it is certainly one to be proud of but in egalitarian setting of the cinema where none of this matters, Waves does not quite live up to it’s promised metaphor.
Waves will be theatrically release soon in the Philippines (date to be decided) and will also be available online for worldwide viewing through Vimeo and Amazon in the second half of February 2015. Plans for an online iTunes release is also in the works.