Island Dreams [movie reaction]

Last Saturday, I decided to watch the 2013 film Island Dreams in Cinematheque Iloilo. There were only four people in the audience including me. I was attracted to the film's trailer, and I did like this movie. I'm not a big fan of the romance genre, but I'll read or watch a story if it's good. It has also won a few awards: it was included in the official selection in the 39th Metro Manila Film Festival under the New Wave Category and won the Most Gender-Sensitive Film Award.

Island Dreams tells the story of Zach (Alexis Petitprez), a foreign tourist in a vacation, and Julie (Louise Delos Reyes), a girl who tries to work as a tourist guide so she can earn some money to go to the city to audition for a reality show, so she can have a chance to chase her dreams to be a singer.

Julie lives with her blind mother, who always teases her about her love life. Julie cringes at the concept of love and is very cynical about it. The story starts when Julie tries to be a tourist guide, except that she's doing it illegally because you have to be accredited by the Department of Tourism to be a guide. Her first 'client' is the aloof foreigner Zach, who at first assumes that the 'services' she offers are different.

Things get to a rocky start when an inebriated Zach tries to make advances to the naive Julie. Nothing happens, but Zach tries to make it up to Julie by hiring her again (as a tourist guide, not anything else). But things are not actually what they seem. We first see Zach as a tourist just looking for a good time, while Julie is just another girl trying to chase her dreams. The story gradually unveils their real motivations and secrets.

Zach is trying to go to a place called "True Love's Peak", but this place reminds Julie of something painful from her past. Just as soon as they start a friendship, Julie and Zach have a huge disagreement again when Julie leads him to a different place entirely! In this, we are shown the real reasons behind Julie and Zach's actions. However, I felt that the way they showed Zach's past was more convincing than the way they showed Julie's past. Zach's past was shown with flashback scenes, while Julie just had a confrontation with her mother who revealed it. It felt like 'telling' rather than 'showing' what happened. I just wished it was shown more and not just revealed in a few sentences.

However, this movie also has its share of cliches. 'The couple tries to fight but ends up with their bodies falling on each other' cliche was here. The actor playing Zach was more convincing in his dramatic scenes than the scenes that are supposed to be comedic. It's Louise who really shines here. I love how her character just carries around a pair of arnis sticks for self-defense and she did use her fighting skills to fend off some NPA guards on a remote place. I didn't really feel the 'spark' or 'chemistry' between the two actors.

This movie is okay if you love the 'beach vacation romance' genre. The last time I watched something like this was the movie Siargao (link to my review), but I liked this movie more than Siargao. That movie feels like a long love letter to Siargao, while in Island Dreams the place was not the focus. It feels like any beach town in the Philippines, it could be anywhere. I think the focus was the characters, not the setting itself.

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