SCREENCRUNCH: Netflix’s latest Filipino original is a refreshing take on relationships and on Filipino films, one that proves how not everything has to be a drama
A beautiful girl and a funny guy meet in a foreign country. If that sounds familiar to you, it’s because you’ve probably seen it before. It was, to be honest, my fear when I started watching Finding Agnes. Oh no, I thought, this is one of those films.
This is why I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t at all “one of those films.” Finding Agnes ended up being a journey between two unlikely souls bonded by love, but not the kind you might expect from a Pinoy flick.
Filmed mostly in some very scenic spots in idyllic Morocco, Finding Agnes is the latest original Filipino film to be hosted on video streaming service Netflix. A quick glance would reveal what is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the film: its two lead actors. There’s Sue Ramirez, who plays Cathy Duvera, a Filipina who grew up in Morocco, and Jelson Bay (yes, the comedian), who plays no-nonsense Pinoy entrepreneur Brix Romero. Forced by circumstances, the two of them meet and they embark on a journey of love, lost, and lost love.
“When I got onboard the project, the producer already had Jelson and Sue in mind,” says Finding Agnes director Marla Ancheta. Incidentally, this film is her directorial debut. “So, I said, why not? It’s also my first movie. I researched their backgrounds, their filmography.”
It turns out, it was a fantastic choice. Sue and Jelson, throughout the film, have this interesting chemistry that can, at times, catch you off guard.
One of the maladies that often infect Filipino films is what I like to call “too-muchness”: There’s too much crying, too much shouting, too much darkness, too much slapstick comedy it isn’t anymore funny. There is none of that in Finding Agnes.
“While I was reading the script, which had a very different, more romcom theme, and when the producer told me they were eyeing Sue and Jelson, I told them it was a great choice,” Marla continues. “This can work, but we have to change the theme a bit. Instead of a romcom, let’s turn it into a personal journey, with light drama touches. And that was our process: We really made sure to finish the script first before we made the characters fit the actors.”
This was a crucial choice, which one will realize after watching the film. See, Finding Agnes is interesting not so much because it was shot in a beautiful country—although that adds an entirely different touch to it—but mostly because it is not over-the-top. One of the maladies that often infect Filipino films is what I like to call “too-muchness”: There’s too much crying, too much shouting, too much darkness, too much slapstick comedy it isn’t anymore funny.
There is none of that in Finding Agnes. In the same way that you get tired of biriteras on stage to prefer singers who have more controlled, nuanced vocal ranges, Finding Agnes shows how it is very possible for a film to be entertaining and insightful in a calm and storytelling-focused manner. This treatment made the funny bits, the serious moments, the drama moods even more poignant.
And with an interesting pair like Sue and Jelson, the dynamics are never boring. “Kuya Jelson and I shared many moments, even off the set. We were also bonding,” says Sue, whose most difficult moment on set was when she had to drive a car that didn’t have power steering.
“There was this moment when we ate at a resto, and you know how anything Kuya Jelson says is funny, even without trying. I have this favorite comment of his, which until now I still say,” Sue continues. “We were in a restaurant, we ordered this food that was like an omelet. It was taking a while, although we were the only customers there. So Kuya Jelson said: Ang tagal naman nung itlog, sana walang masamang nangyari dun sa nagluluto. I found that so hilarious. But that’s how he is, he can make the most serious moments very light.”
In the same way that you get tired of biriteras on stage to prefer singers who have more controlled, nuanced vocal ranges, Finding Agnes shows how it is very possible for a film to be entertaining and insightful in a calm and storytelling-focused manner.
Of course, having Jelson around, there was never a dull moment. “Once, while in Morocco, I went to get a Hammam scrub,” he recalls. “After the body scrub, the massauex got so much dirt off me—it was like he cleaned a very dirty water tank. He asked me, whispering, ‘What’s your job?’ ‘I’m an actor,’ I said. ‘Oh, I thought you were a mechanic, or something,’ he replied.”
With actors like Sue and Jelson, together with veterans like Sandy Andolong and Dexter Doria, and under the direction of Marla, Finding Agnes turns out to be a joyride worth taking. In terms of film style, it’s an exposition that proves how less can be more.
ScreenCrunch verdict: For its refreshing take on life and everything else in between, and for not falling into the typical “too-muchness” in Pinoy films, we give Finding Agnes a 4 out of 5.
Starting today, you can now watch Finding Agnes on Netflix.