There’s a whole lot of “Siargao” that feels like a travelogue. Rightly so, the title of the movie is the popular island and it demands to be seen, but unlike other movies where the coverage of the setting equates with the emotional journey of its characters, many shots of “Siargao” are purely cosmetic.
There are good uses of the island’s surfing culture to symbolize the lead character’s internal struggles, like the crashing of waves, but it doesn’t happen too often.
But the struggles are real. “Siargao” is the story of Diego (Jericho Rosales) and Laura (Erich Gonzales), who go to the island for two very different reasons. Diego is coming home after a very public scandal involving his band. Laura is a vlogger, who is coming from a heartbreak and finding herself.
The film’s strongest point is how unafraid it is to get intimate. While there are plentiful shots of the gorgeousness of the island, it has a travelogue effect that takes away from the film. Director Paul Soriano’s focus is strongest when he brings the camera really close into the character’s faces to reveal what’s going on inside of them.
Erich Gonzales is lovely as Laura. For the entirety of the first act, she comes across as flighty, sometimes a bit vapid, but it’s an act that belies her issues. When they do come out in a lovely scene when she finally opens up, she shows a fragility and vulnerability that bristle with honesty.
I’ve always thought of Jericho Rosales as one of the best actors of this generation and it’s evident in his portrayal of Diego. He’s so natural in his performance and this is a character he embodies well. It’s almost as if he’s not acting.
Rounding up the superb cast are Jasmine Curtis-Smith and Enchong Dee, the complications in our lead character’s lives.
This is the most honest performance I’ve ever seen of Enchong Dee and, once again, Jasmine Curtis-Smith proves she’s an intelligent actress. She embodies an older woman, and despite her actual age, she manages to capture the character’s experiences and maturity through stillness. It’s an incredible portrayal because she captures the history her character shares with Diego and makes it believable.
“Siargao” shouldn’t work. It relies too much on dialogue to push the story forward but there is a rawness and an honesty to the script and to the performances that carry it through. It delivers an intimacy that touches you. It fools you into thinking it’s a standard romantic fare but it goes deeper still and charms you.
There is wisdom here and it is unabashedly a love letter to the island but it’s also about four people who are left wounded by choices that they’ve made. It’s about finding redemption in a magical place that is home to one and strange to another. It’s about home and finding its true meaning. And the film accomplishes that, picturesque shots aside, through truly honest performances.