When I went to watch "Tayo sa Huling Buwan ng Taon," I did not know that this new film by Nestor Abrogena was a sequel of a previous film of his. I never got to watch the first movie "Ang Kuwento Nating Dalawa" (2015) at all, so for me, this was a totally new story with a new cast of characters to watch. I am most probably not going to judge this new film similarly to someone who had seen the first film before.
Teacher/photographer/filmmaker Sam was in a happy live-in relationship with his co-teacher Anna, and they were about to get married. Writer Isa was in a happy live-in relationship with pilot/illustrator Frank, and they were about to migrate to the United States. It turned out that five years ago, Sam and Isa had a serious relationship which ended up in a painful separation. When their plans crossed again now, old wounds are reopened.
For someone who had not seen the first film, Sam (Nicco Manalo) and Isa (Vera) did not have any romantic spark between them. Their personalities and backgrounds were so different from each other, they did not seem to fit at all. On the other hand, they were very compatible with their partners in life now -- Sam with Anna (Anna Luna), and Isa with Frank (Alex Medina). This contrast made the irony of their current contentment with the present versus the elusive closure with the past even more painful.
While there was a similarity in the way Abrogena used the LRT/MRT and other public places as settings in the first film (as seen from its trailers and music videos), the overall quality of the cinematography (by Tey Clamor) looked so much better, cleaner and clearer in this new film, in terms of lighting, color quality and shot selection. That scene in the Christmas light show in particular was spectacularly shot, with the actors' faces floating amidst the sparkling bulbs in the background, as the camera circled around them.
In the soundtrack of the first film, Qwest's "Walang Hanggan" emerged as the big hit with the fans. Here, there are three main songs which accompany the most emotionally heavy scenes. Elle Sebastian's “Panahon," December Avenue's ”"Huling Sandali" and my personal favorite, Urbandub frontman Gabby Alipe’s “The Fight is Over" -- were all melancholic reflections of longing for a lost love. All of them fit perfectly into the overall heartbreaking mood of this film.
Writer-director Nestor Abrogena told his story with a very slow pace. The whole first half of the film was about Sam and Isa's current separate lives with their respective families (heartwarming performances by Peewee O'Hara as Sam's mom and Alvin Anson as Isa's dad) and significant others, Anna and Frank. If you did not know that they used to be a serious item in a previous film (like me), this part of the film would seem rather meandering (but sincere) exposition of their mundane daily lives.
When the two exes bumped into each other accidentally during an event, then that was the only time when the story began to take shape and clear up. Even then, it felt like their full back story was not completely revealed. It got lost and was left unanswered in emotional outbursts and incomplete sentences -- all within one single scene. I guess that answering that question was not the point of this film at all.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."