I’ve written a whole lot about this year’s Metro Manila Film Fest, or MMFF, as of late. The past few posts I put up in Robin’s Adventures have been dedicated to them. I usually don’t care about the MMFF because the lineup of films are just not to my liking. But all of that changed when I saw the trailer of this one movie. One movie that looked so unlike all of the other Filipino films that have been released before. That movie is Saving Sally.
While the visuals definitely caught my attention, it wasn’t the only reason why Saving Sally made me care about this year’s MMFF. It looked like the producers of the film took extra care to crafting not just a specific look for the entire film, but to make sure that the story, decidedly really basic, was told in a unique way. That’s what actually made me do something I have never done before: go watch a movie during the Metro Manila Film Fest.
And I did.
I did get to watch Saving Sally and I’m going to tell you from the onset that I loved it. It was probably one of the best Filipino films I’ve ever seen and was definitely worthy your time and money. But, at the same time, I was kind of disappointed… for all the right reasons.
I will be going to review the film and this will be generally be a SPOILER FREE review. But, like I said, it’s good. Really, really good and you should go watch it if you have the chance. But, if you want a little more detail than that, read on!
Saving Sally focuses on Marty, an aspiring comic book artist/writer who pines for his best friend, Sally. Although Marty wants to express his feeling for her, he’s afraid to reveal it to her. As a budding cartoonist, Marty has a very vivid imagination and, because of this wild imagination, he visualizes the world a little differently. And we see the entire film through his eyes, where everything is colored in a cartoony hue and mean people come off as monsters.
The first thing that will strike you when you so see Saving Sally are the visuals. The film is a visual marvel with the real life characters interacting with the imaginary monsters and animated world seamlessly. There was never a moment where I was jarred out of my immersion of the story because of how the scenes looked. The way the actors interacted in this world never looked like they were out of place at all.
The creativity doesn’t just involve the backgrounds and the animated stuff. One of Sally’s quirks is that she’s an inventor of weird gadgets and there are a lot of weird props that shows Sally’s inventiveness. I will say that a lot of the inventions may seem highly impractical but the imaginative designs that go into them make them all very interesting. They never seem out of place and they fit right in with the style the film is going for.
Besides the more obvious visual cues like the animated background and monsters, there are also a lot of clever nods and winks to eagle eyed viewers with a keen sense of observation. A lot of the places are mostly puns and callbacks to popular Filipino culture and phrases. The park that Marty and Sally go to is called Sandara Park, which just so happens to be the same name of a popular Korean singer in the Philippines. There’s also Sally’s habit of wearing something pink most of the time as well as the images on Marty’s shirts, which do change and somehow fit the scene he’s in.
A lot of what makes Saving Sally a fun watch has to do with the acting, which from the most part was excellent. While mostly everyone gives a good performance, it’s Rhian Ramos interpretation of the titular Sally that is outstanding from start to finish. Sally is more than just the focus of the entire film; she’s also the most complex character. Behind that bubbly facade is a somewhat sad person and Sally tries to hide that pain from the world. I would imagine that’s an incredible difficult emotion to display on screen but Rhian Ramos does an such an excellent job to show that side to the audience!
What makes Rhian Ramos’ performance as Sally extremely good and effective is the subtle delivery of whatever she does on screen. You can instantly sense the pain Sally’s feeling just bubbling underneath that perky image she portrays. She sounds happy most of the time but, when Sally feels sad, you know it. I say kudos to Rhian Ramos. If she doesn’t win an award for her performance here, I really want to see the actress that beats her!
The rest of the cast does come off as likeable in their own special way. Practically every side character is a stereotype or caricature of someone but they’re pulled off in such a way that they never get on your nerves. There’s the comic book publisher who’s a fast talking geek with weird sensibilities. Sally’s overbearing and overprotective parents behave the way you predict they would be with no surprises. Marty’s doting mother comes off as being overly sensitive and sometimes embarrassingly so. Marty’s father who isn’t really all that keen on emotional moments but does manage to show that he cares for his son. They’re incredibly formulaic but they do come off as likeable and fit right into the world of Saving Sally.
I will give a special mention to Nick, Sally’s boyfriend. Marty sees him as a penis shaped monster because, well, to him, he’s a dick. But I never really saw him as a “monster.” Nick never really came off as a really bad guy for the most part. Maybe he’s a douchebag and jock, fine. But monster? Not really. In fact, there are some scenes where Nick seems to really think that Marty is his friend. But I think this was an intentional move by the film makers. This is where the film actually becomes a little clever because of how Marty visualizes Nick during these moments. I hope this was intentional but if not, this was a really happy accident!
Saving Sally is, unfortunately, far from a flawless film as I personally have a number of problems with it. First, I have to talk about the actual main character, Marty. I guess the actor that plays him is fine but the problem I have is not with the performance but with the character himself. He’s wasn’t all that interesting. While everyone has their weird traits, Marty isn’t really given that luxury. If you watch anime, he’s the guy that pines for the girl and… that’s it. He’s never really given all that much to do. I was much more interested in the comic book publisher because he was a fascinating guy. Marty just feels boring. Heck, I kinda understood why Sally fell in love with the dickhead monster because Marty felt so bland!
While I loved the overall story and how it was presented, there are more than just a few inconsistencies with the development of the characters. Things sometimes just happen or the rules change without the viewer being informed. For example, early in the film, Sally mentions that she’s not allowed to own a cell phone. Later on, however, you can see her openly use a cell phone in her house… where her parents can see her use it! The visuals didn’t shake me out of my immersion; inconsistencies like this did.
The overall story could’ve been kept simpler as well. There are some story elements that don’t really factor into the grand scheme of it all. They made Sally an inventor, which adds to her personality. But her being an inventor could’ve been written out pretty easily as it never becomes a core part of what makes Sally the likeable girl that she is. It’s a trait that could’ve been worked out and Sally wouldn’t be any worse because of it. It does become apparent at the very last scene but it felt like the writer and director just fell in love with the ending. Personally, I could’ve done away with the ending reveal because it felt predictable.
The final 1/4th of the movie also felt kind of rushed and forced. Without revealing anything, let’s just say that you can see that both Marty and Sally actually grow up a bit but then revert back to the status quo. This was very disappointing as Saving Sally decided to play it safe as they gave the viewers the predictable ending instead of taking the risk and giving us an ending that may not be as happy as the one we got but would be just as satisfying.
But the thing I disliked the most about Saving Sally was how they could’ve handled the more subtle emotional moments better. There were scenes where Marty felt betrayed by Sally and vice versa but these were quickly brushed aside without a second to let the emotional impact sink. Maybe a moment to pause and some silence to feel the weight of these moments would’ve made it work better.
If it sounds like I’m being incredibly critical about Saving Sally’s problems, it’s because I am. That’s how I get whenever I feel a deep connection with something. I go look at the faults and problems and these issues just bug the heck out of me more than they should because, if these flaws weren’t there, the final product would’ve been better. But that’s also how I know that I really liked Saving Sally as well. I wouldn’t get this worked up over them. And I rarely get worked this worked up!
Ultimately, I was impressed with Saving Sally. I don’t watch a whole lot of locally produced films but I’m certainly glad I watched this one. The film is a visual treat and is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. I’m not afraid to say it but, as a straight girl, I think I may now have a crush on Rhian Ramos because of this film. If this ever comes out on Blu-Ray, I will go out and buy it.
Rhian Ramos, can you sign my Blu-Ray? I’ll be your best friend!
Have you seen Saving Sally? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!