This is a review of Avid Liongoren’s Saving Sally.
The male lead of Saving Sally mentions that, “no one looks at the geeky guy”. Saving Sally is that geeky guy. Now, the unforgiving the spotlight of the local film industry is on the geeky guy, otherwise known as the small outfit film, and it is his opportunity to show the world what it is missing because it has kept its attention on the alpha males, big production films, for far too long.
Avid Liongoren’s Saving Sally is a nonpareil among its Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) contemporaries because it is a live-action animated film. Its appeal hinges on the unorthodoxy of its presentation rather than on its run-of-the-mill story.
Sally (Rhian Ramos) is the embodiment of every geek’s dream girl. She is a self-proclaimed “artist, inventor and mercenary”. She lives up to her proclamations because she is a gadget goddess who makes better versions of flat irons, dishwashers and panampay. She is into comic books and has no qualms in eating fish balls and isaw (grilled chicken intestines). Although she “eats like a pig” and “laughs like a horse”, she is as physically stunning as the fantastic heroines that reside in comic books.
Sally crosses path with Marty (Enzo Marcos), the dictionary definition of a geeky guy, when she saves him from the school bully, with the help of a possible tutsang-pulling gadget. Marty is a comic artist whose hands get more exercise than the rest of his body parts combined judging by his jelly-like physique. Rather than going out, he opts to adorn one side of his room with drawings of Sally, which he camouflages with comic book drawings when she comes over for fear of being judged.
Their shared geekiness (is this a word?) is the glue that binds them throughout high school. That is until Marty cannot contain his romantic feelings for Sally anymore. They might have been the perfect geek couple, but Sally is oblivious of Marty’s feelings and worse, she starts going out with an alpha male named Dick Prick Nick (TJ Trinidad). Even with his heart in a million shards, Marty chooses to be Sally’s hero and tries to save her from the villains that inhabit her world. Will Marty the Martyr succeed?
Ramos as Sally is worth saving. She is believable as a kick-ass geek with a playful side when she banters with Marty or shoots photos of sleeping people. She is compelling as an intelligent persona because she is articulate and her English lines do not look rehearsed when she says them. While Ramos pulls off the innocent 17-year old girl character that is more interested in comic books than in men, once she starts dating Nick, her smoldering side appears. Of course, she is also credible as a seductress. It is enjoyable to watch her as she switches from the vulnerable Sally to the playful Sally and back.
Fortunately, Marcos is not a dead weight. He looks, talks and walks geek. He matches Ramos’ silver-tongued English scene after scene. His expressions are on point, whether he is being babied by his mother or being grilled by his comic book publisher. His helplessness in the face of romantic adversity, as he plays the bridge between Sally and his archrival Nick, is both comical and heart-rending. The shock on his face after Sally successfully escapes her parents’ tight security for a date night is priceless.
Saving Sally does not have dramatic highs and lows. The simplistic plot produces a flat line that makes sense in an intellectual level but does not work beyond that. Granted that it is more than a teenage romance because it also touches upon child abuse and pre-marital sex (to a certain degree), yet it lacks an emotional connection that provokes tightening of the heart or moistening of the eyes. Wala siyang kurot sa puso.
However, it succeeds in combining live-action and animation in every scene. While Sally and Marty gallivant around Metro Manila, the computer-generated background is a sight to behold. It includes people as monsters (in the mind of Marty), the Manila Light Rail Transport (LRT) whooshing by, Sally’s house (which looks more than a prison than a house) perched on top of an exaggerated flight of stairs, and Sally’s adoptive parents’ symbolic shadows. There are also Sally’s and Marty’s frequently-visited places with playful names, like Kosmik Komiks and Sandara Park, and those that happen to be in the vicinity when the duo go about their day, like Loka Loka’s Store, Washing Well, Warner Barberos, Tuk Mall, Kikay’s Ukay-Ukay, and Mang Mang’s Store. These show that the people behind Saving Sally are intelligent and have a wicked sense of humor.
I have not watched an animated Filipino film whose scale is comparable to Saving Sally’s, and I imagine that its inclusion in this year’s MMFF has pushed the creative envelope of Filipino animation. The film does not move me, but looking at the visuals and thinking of the tribulations people behind the film experienced to have a beautiful output is laudable. Now that I have looked at the geeky guy, I realized that I like what I see. With a little more spiffing up, he will be able to go toe-to-toe with the alpha male.
I am sure that high school and college students will enjoy this film. Those with alangangin level of English need to have handkerchief or tissues ready, baka magka-nose bleed sa 99.99% English conversations. 🙂
Wait until after the credits roll before you leave your seats. The story of the girl who carries the world on her back and the boy who longs for her follows. It is cute. 🙂