Under Parallel Skies (2024)


Under Parallel Skies Review

There is a lot of misfiring in what should have been a surefire international co-production hit ‘Under Parallel Skies’ starring Metawin Opas-iamkajorn and Janella Salvador, directed by Sigrid Andrea Bernardo. This should be good. Shot in Hong Kong, Bernardo has shown that she knows how to capture love against the backdrop of a foreign lang. She did it so well in ‘Kita Kita,’ pairing Alessandra de Rossi and Empoy kilig-ingly, resulting in much success. But in ‘Under Parallel Skies,’ things just don’t come together and the movie feels disjointed and confused about what story it wants to tell.

Parin is played by Metawin Opas-iamkajorn here, a very rich Thai young businessman who goes to HK looking for his mother. There he meets Iris (Janella Salvador), who works at the hotel he’s staying in; and because his dad has left instructions for the staff to take care of him, she ends up working overtime attending to all Parin’s needs — including helping him find his mother. They get close as they do this, finding out that their feelings have grown from purely professional to something much more.

The first thing wrong with this film is that it doesn’t have one story. The whole first act is about Parin looking for his mom. While he employs the help of Iris, which sets up the love story after, but finding the mom is still the goal and direction; surprisingly though, this gets resolved faster than expected — changing what the whole rest of movie will be about on its second act: suddenly Parin and Iris drop everything to start working together as business partners running a small cafe by a beach somewhere in some coastal province of Hong Kong while living together. But then there’s another third act twist that feels like an entirely different movie all over again involving one character’s hidden secrets that are unconvincingly set up in act one and never any visible motivating factor until it is revealed in the final act that turns over the movie again.

These different directions make the film feel like three different movies, and never allow us to really get to know the characters or see their relationship grow into the love story that second act wants us to fall in love with. Bernardo fills first act with Parin’s desperation to find his mother but also sprinkles comedic moments of Iris and Parin verbally sparring or Iris taking care of a drunk Parin, so we know that they’re going to fall in love; only problem is there’s no real chemistry happening between two leads, and once Parin meets his mom there are no real lessons learned there — because it doesn’t change anything about his life.

I never met Parin and Iris until now, after an hour of business. Parin left home to find his mother; he implied that he ran a business in Thailand (and it failed), and that he is the youngest son of a wealthy family; but none of this is ever returned to. We do not know what he likes or what drives him and it’s the same with Iris. I also don’t know what drives her, only that she has a sister back home in the Philippines which she does not speak to – we don’t find out why. So when these two characters quickly fall in love with each other, there’s nothing connecting them other than time spent together — love comes from no sense of connection other than shared time.

It doesn’t help that Bernardo’s directing choices are also pretty puzzling. It felt like 90% of the film was shot in extreme close ups on actors’ faces because it capitalizes a lot on their good looks/star power. Except that it makes the film feel very small and confined and claustrophobic there are barely any establishing shots–the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong is never emphasized…and the grandeur of the backdrop of any location ends up carrying no consequence for narrative… Adding onto this is Bernardo’s choice to direct dialogue scenes (of which there are too many) as cut-to-cut: There are very few moments where Metawin speaks to Janella while they’re both still in frame together; Parin says a line, cut to Iris who says a line, cut then Parin says another line… Characters feel distant when they should be getting closer.

And this is strange coming from Bernardo who was able to use all of Sapporo as a backdrop for ‘Kita Kita’ so well, helping amplify the growing love story between her two leads – or how she situates her romance/drama-turned-suspense/thriller ‘Untrue’ against the gorgeous Georgian landscape where she situates her characters in a vast world and knows how to use location to amplify themes and create stunning imagery that elevates work. None of this skill set is at work in ‘Under Parallel Skies.’ Very little of Hong Kong is scene and it never really fully plays out in story – could have been set in Thailand or the Philippines, nothing essentially changes about story…

There are a lot of cliches that fill up the rest of the film to help fill in for underdeveloped characters or storylines. All elements present for a hit: strong writer/director with great track record for producing groundbreaking work, two big stars from different countries/cultures, popular genre, exotic location — but none of these things come into alignment and film is way too close for comfort (cinematographically) that it leaves no room to breathe/gain scope while having such thin story resorting familiar cliches to fill in gaps.

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