Rewind: An Absolute Showcase of DongYan’s Chemistry

Screengrab from ABS-CBN Star Cinema’s Rewind Trailer/Youtube

When a filmmaker brings up the idea of manipulating time, endless possibilities are on the line. If done well enough to the point that it encompasses universal themes like familial love and hope, it can evoke the human mind and heart.

Rewind is an example of going back in time to relive the past and induce a wide range of emotions in its cast and audience—and it does so effectively. It is the latest addition to Filipino film director Mae Czarina Cruz’s filmography and one of the ten entries that premiered in the 2023 Metro Manila Film Festival. The film is now available for streaming on Netflix.

The film explores the mental struggles of John (Dingdong Dantes) as an employee for a wine company and as a workaholic father and husband to Austin (Jordan Lim) and Mary (Marian Rivera), respectively. Due to John’s desire to be promoted as head of the company, his attention towards his family thoroughly declines. As a result, an ugly quarrel between John and Mary erupts and eventually becomes the cause of a tragic accident and a period of redemption for John.

Rewind opens with a young John and Mary, both elementary students, sharing an awkward yet touching scene during a class task to be done in pairs. The film then skips to the present, when both are already married and have a child named Austin.

Screengrab from ABS-CBN Star Cinema’s Rewind Trailer/Youtube

This opening section was important because it established a significant aspect of the movie: emotional distress. It also bridged the on-and-off connection hovering between John and Mary throughout the film. Though this particular scene lasted briefly, audiences returned to this opening repeatedly as the dramatic tension of the climax became too much to bear. After all, the movie was called Rewind.

The pacing of the movie was as simple as it got—John and Mary live a joyful life as a married couple. However, when John is on the verge of becoming the CEO of a wine company, things become different. After losing the position to co-worker Vivian (Sue Ramirez), John falls to an emotional downfall as he struggles to cope with the result.

This predicament eventually gets the best of him and puts him and Mary into a difficult situation. None of the film’s plot points were difficult to understand because they flowed in a linear fashion. A portion of these scenarios, unfortunately, were basically giveaways, and some viewers can already expect what is going to happen in the end even though the film is still halfway into the climax.

Behind the average storyline, however, was real-life married couple DongYan’s—or Dantes and Rivera’s, superb acting prowess. While some of the tertiary cast struggled to achieve a fulfilling performance, such as Ramirez’s character Vivian, whose English-speaking dialogues sometimes felt too cheesy and Joross Gamboa’s Lucio who is a purely comical character, DongYan’s tendency to display true-to-life emotional statements single handedly carried the entirety of the film’s weaknesses.

It was hard not to notice DongYan’s talents as both leads have served the Philippine film industry for a long time as veteran celebrities. Pitching them in a film like Rewind is like a saving grace. There was nothing negative to expect from their performance, and DongYan’s sheer presence was where Rewind shined the most.

The weakest aspect of the film goes to the character of Lods (Pepe Herrera), who also goes by the name of Jess as an electrician in Mary and Austin’s eyes. The audience was introduced to a scene wherein Austin talks to a portrait of Jesus in his bedroom. Eventually, the viewers can assume that the portrait itself may serve an important role in motivating John in his endeavors.

Screengrab from ABS-CBN Star Cinema’s Rewind Trailer/Youtube

However, Lods’ existence was nonsensical. He was a poor, out-of-the-box attempt to bridge the gap between the past and present of John’s life.

One can even go as far as seeing Lods as a stereotypical side character thrown in just to lecture about the words of God, thus imbuing religious themes into the film. These are already too much to absorb because other themes are way more crucial to Rewind’s development and plot such as time, regret, loss, familial love and salvation.

If Rewind’s target audience were children or casual filmgoers, then Lods was simply a deus ex machina who was assigned the purpose of delivering life lessons to John. Lods’ depiction as the friendly tropa and a symbol of Jesus’ goodness were more than enough to remind the audience that people only have one opportunity to experience life.

The film’s soundtrack revolved around the same few tracks playing repeatedly. One of these was an instrumental and studio version of Ben&Ben’s Sa Susunod Na Habang Buhay, which may sound repetitive. However, along with DongYan’s spectacular performances, the song served the strong dramatic aspect of certain scenes enough to make the audience cry in their seats.

Screengrab from ABS-CBN Star Cinema’s Rewind Trailer/Youtube

The cinematography sometimes delved too much into close-up shots, especially on John and Mary’s facial expressions. More often than not, these shots were exaggerated even if they were intended to compliment the distress that both leads want to express. An example of this is the slow-motion sequence that occurred when Mary and John’s car was about to crash, and the camera zoomed in on each of the lead’s faces as they looked at each other.

The color grading of the film can be traced to warm and muted colors such as sepia and pastel ones like serene blue. Both are often associated with nostalgia and since Rewind focused on going back in time, they were the perfect tones for the entirety of the film.

Rewind can be seen as a movie that is purely intended to specialize in going back in time and showcase Dantes and Rivera’s acting prowess. The main selling point of Star Cinema’s latest entry is the tearjerker performance of DongYan, both displaying sheer devotion in going through a wide range of emotions and realizations as time ticks.

The two leads’ tandem ultimately resulted in an effective way of rending the emotional appeal of the audience. All these come at the cost of an obvious linear storyline and weak tertiary characters.  Franz Zoe Stoelzl Baroña

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