If you’re looking for drone porn (not that kind of drone porn), director Paul Soriano’s wanderlust-fueled MMFF 2017 entry Siargao might just feed your fix. It’s filled to the brim with lush aerial photography that captures the islands that serve as its setting, establishing the seductive beauty that has lured many foreign surfers and backpackers to its shores. There are also some neat surfing and motor biking sequences—action shots that could get your adrenaline pumping, if you’re into that sort of thing.
The only problem is that despite the excessive use of drones and GoPros to capture the natural wonders surrounding its characters, this movie treads very shallow waters.
Diego (Jericho Rosales) is a troubled musician whose band, The Diego Project, is currently experiencing some creative turmoil. In order to quiet his mind, he flies from Manila to Siargao, the province of his birth, to retreat where family, friends, and waves await. On the flight, he meets Laura (Erich Gonzales), a cute vlogger doing some soul searching—you know, of the Eat, Pray, Love kind. Her journey is more personal, heartbreak being the obvious reason she’s in need of deep introspection.
They have an instant connection. And since Diego is a local, he volunteers to be Laura’s personal tour guide and kissing buddy. But wait. Diego has a storied romantic past, one that the writing only elaborates on through casual conversations that don’t welcome any emotional investment from the audience. Abi (Jasmine Curtis-Smith), Diego’s TOTGA (the one that got away, noobs), is still living on these sands and it seems that there are still some sparks between the two of them. This becomes the central conflict in the movie, only there’s no real tension or vitriol for any redemption to take fruition.
Just as the flirtation between Diego and Laura is getting hot and heavy, the script immediately cuts that storyline short when Laura opts to be “just friends” with Diego, a platonic handshake sealing the deal. You see, she doesn’t do summer flings and she’d rather play cupid by reinvigorating Diego’s passion for Abi. Weren’t they just torridly swapping spit on a sweat-stained dance floor five seconds ago? The people in this film, unlike real life, are too nice (or vapid and boring—take your pick), leaving no room for actual drama to ensue. Like a surfer fighting the tide, the plot paddles and paddles along to no end until you’re too tired to even care.
Erich’s acting is wooden, her Laura a boring cookie-cutter representation of what a YouTube influencer should be. Jericho is a disappointment as well, his usual onscreen magnetism drowned by mediocre lines (wait for the climactic monologue that sounds like awful spoken word poetry). Jasmine is the saving grace, making do with what she has to work with, her presence the only one that doesn’t feel forced in this tsunami of lacklusterness.
The main problem with Siargao is that it’s too focused on the setting—the crystal blue waters, the warm people, and the permeating vibe of escape the destination provides. Everything framed is drenched in sun-kissed lighting, the millennial aesthetic popular on Instagram hijacking the movie’s visuals. It’s like a TVC, and in the end, Skyjet Philippines will be laughing their way to the bank.
We get it—Siargao is majestic. This movie, however, just isn’t.