The opening scene of What If sets the stage with a young woman, lost in thought, strolling along a tranquil beach, gazing at the vast sea. The melancholic narrative and stunning visuals of nature hint at an emotional and sentimental journey ahead. But does the story live up to its intriguing beginning?
What If is a new Filipino romantic drama that revolves around newlyweds Billy (Alessandra de Rossi) and Jose (JM de Guzman), who embark on a romantic honeymoon getaway to Panglao Island shortly after their wedding. As they bask in post-wedding bliss, a storm unexpectedly disrupts their idyllic retreat. Trapped indoors, they begin to reflect on their past, unearthing hidden conflicts that threaten to unravel their relationship.
Despite a promising premise, What If falls short of its potential, leaving viewers frustrated. While the film boasts well-executed dramatic elements and picturesque settings, its messy pacing and uninspiring narrative and characters hinder its impact. Most notably, the characters lack depth, particularly Billy, who remains a one-dimensional figure throughout the film. Despite her appropriate reactions to unfolding events, her character never evolves beyond surface-level traits, such as her role as a keyboardist or her strained relationship with her famous music producer father.
Similarly, Jose, her well-known pop singer husband, struggles to break free from the mould of a typical, unremarkable character. Although the actor skilfully conveys the character's emotions, the writing fails to infuse Jose with any unique qualities or depth. The film's focus on their relationship as a couple leaves individual character development sorely lacking.
The dynamic between Billy and Jose follows a clichéd pattern, moving from an initial state of infatuation to emotional turmoil. The constant cycle of cheesy romantic moments, followed by tearful arguments, fails to engage the audience, making the love story feel stale and predictable. While the film attempts to differentiate itself by portraying these ups and downs in a condensed post-wedding timeframe, it ultimately falls short of providing a fresh perspective. One of the film's most glaring issues is its erratic pacing and direction. While the idea of alternating between happiness and tension in the newlywed's relationship can be effective when used sparingly, What If relies on this technique excessively.
The constant shifts between past and present disrupt the viewer's ability to fully immerse themselves in the narrative. Although some flashbacks offer insights into the characters' responses to island life, others feel disjointed and unnecessary, introducing unrelated information without proper buildup. These inconsistencies further contribute to the film's disjointed nature. The central conflict between Billy and Jose, illustrating the turbulence of marriage, does hold potential, but it unfolds too late in the story to engage the audience fully. While it does improve as the film progresses, it fails to compensate for the earlier pacing issues.
What If may appeal to those who appreciate slow-paced romantic dramas and can tolerate narratives that meander. Despite moments of effective conflict and the visual portrayal of the island's changing mood, the film's uninteresting story, flat characters and haphazard presentation prevent it from realising its full potential. While it may find an audience among certain viewers, it falls short of delivering a memorable cinematic experience.
- What If
- Starring Alessandra de Rossi, JM de Guzman
- Directed by Manny Palo
- Now streaming on Netflix