After watching Kita Kita last night, I predict that it will be a modest sleeper hit among Pinoy audiences who automatically lap up romantic hugot films, TV commercials, and songs. We are a hugot nation, after all.
Kita Kita (I See You) opens with Alessandra de Rossi as Lea, a Pinay who works as a tour guide in Sapporo, Japan, who goes temporarily blind. A Filipino neighbor, Tonyo, comes over to make friends with her. Eventually he slowly woos her. Empoy Marquez plays Tonyo with just the right light touch, striking a careful balance between charming and trying too hard.
It is largely to the credit of the two leads that their cute-meet and the eventual development of their relationship are mostly engaging and believable. On-screen, the two share an easy chemistry that works; in fact, a woman behind me muttered to her friend, “Shet, kinikilig yata ako!”
The movie upends the usual romantic clichés by replacing them with another cliché. In this rom-com, it’s possible for a pretty woman like Lea to end up with a guy like Tonyo because love is (temporarily) blind.
In true rom-com fashion, the audience assumes that the true test of whether Lea really loves Tonyo will be when Lea regains her eyesight and sees Tonyo for the first time. (In a previous scene, when she tries to “see” what he looks like by tracing his face with her fingers, she says, quite confidently, “Ang guwapo mo siguro,” to which Tonyo replies in an aside, “Bulag ka nga.”) Will she accept Tonyo, looks and all?
When her eyesight returns, he’s across the street from her. Everything is in slo-mo, she sees him, and smiles.
At this point the movie does a 360, and we rewind to the start of Tonyo’s story. The movie shifts to his point of view, including a change in voice-over. There are surprises and revelations, and their love story becomes fuller when his part in it is plugged into the timeline.
But while writer-director Sigrid Andrea Bernardo does something unusual in Filipino rom-coms, this two-sides-of-a-story is actually a well-worn storytelling device that the Japanese and Koreans have almost mastered to a T. So while I smiled at the slightly-clunky-at-times but generally smooth execution by Sigrid, I can’t help but think, “been there, seen that.”
Still, I prefer to see our filmmakers stretching their wings and giving the viewing public something more than the usual fare. And for those who are tired of hugot rom-coms, here’s something that’s worth seeing.
Kita-kits tayo sa Kita Kita.
(Kita Kita is Graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board)