I first ran across “Saving Sally” on Facebook with an appeal from its creator, Avid Liongoren, appealing for funds to finish the film’s post-production. A short trailer with unfinished special effects and at times, black and white animatics, gave funders a preview of the movie.
Even then, it was obvious that it was going to be something special. Live actors composited on animation were somewhat reminiscent of the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “Mirrormask.” But after much excitement from the local geek community, it disappeared from the scene.
Fast forward a couple of years and I’m glad to say “Saving Sally” was rescued through Liongoren’s blood, sweat and tears as he literally gave up almost everything just to finish this movie.
The movie does not disappoint. The crowdfunding trailer did do justice to the end result, and at the same time, tempering expectations for an indie special-effects laden movie.
The movie’s tagline, “A Very Typical Love Story,” is true to the plot. That is, if a typical love story involves nightmarish monsters, steampunk inventions, and geeky parents. Told mostly in English, the love story has beats from the Japanese anime’s “will-they-won’t-they-someone-say-something-already” plotline.
Enzo Marcos plays artistic Marty, a comic-book artist who falls for the titular Sally, a quirky “inventor-mercenary” played with much gusto by Rhian Ramos. We follow Marty’s quest to save Sally from the monsters he sees in the world and, ultimately, from herself. A shout out to Bodjie Pascua, who plays Marty’s dad. Any computer-game- and gadget-loving geek would love to have him as a father figure in the few moments he’s on screen.
The world we see is through Marty’s comic-book fueled eyes. And what a world it is! Off-kilter shapes, dazzling colors and cartoony extras with touches of Filipino culture like jeepneys, a certain masked character that goes around UP, and street food vendors make the Manila Enzo and Sally live in familiar yet otherworldly at the same time.
The film’s age shows a bit because of the lack of dynamic moving shots. Most, if not all, of the scenes with CGI backgrounds were done with the characters in just one place. This is where the creators really showed off their quirkiness, passion and creativity. The phallic CGI character of Sally’s boyfriend, Nick, was borderline juvenile but in the end, still was used to make a point.
The film proudly shows off its geek and comic book inspirations. A reference to the death of a certain robot leader in a particular animated movie decades ago back drew a laugh from the audience members in-the-know. Shots of local Filipino comics “Trese” and “Elmer” were a nice touch. Even the gadgets that Sally uses are cobbled together with bits of steampunk and robotics.
But special effects do not make a complete movie. I thought there were some dragging sequences. At times, the two leads seem to disconnect. I thought the resolution of one of the major subplots of the movie felt jarring. What I liked was the way the movie ended with sequence to wrap everything up.
This movie really reminded me of “RPG: Metanoia” (read my review here) from the 2010 Metro Manila Film Festival. With its heart and brain on its sleeve, “Saving Sally” is like Liongoren writing a love letter to its intended geek audience. Even Sally outrightly says she prefers geeks to the athletic types. Geeks will love the easter eggs, the cultural references, and certain scenes that pay homage to other fantasy and sci-fi movies. Everyone else will be wowed by the effects and the love story.
I really wish we had more Filipino films like this. It is not a perfect movie but, in the moments where it shines, it absolutely dazzles. Highly recommended for the audacity to tell a very typical love story in a very atypical way. Stay until after the end credits for a really nice animated short.
NOTE: This was originally published as http://news.abs-cbn.com/life/12/26/16/review-geeking-out-on-saving-sally