The current pandemic, which keeps most of us indoors, gives a new shade of meaning to Rob Jara’s Tila (Monsoons). In real life, we are faced with a virus that’s killed hundreds of thousands all over the world and made us rethink our whole lives over. In the movie, Rob Jara locates his story (maybe) not in a distant future but in an alternate yet familiar present: a Philippines where it’s always raining, where our dry and wet seasons had been reduced to an unending rainy days with varying levels of rainfall throughout the year.
“The rainfall will be kept at Level 3 for the rest of August”, a PAGASA forecast announces on the radio. The sun never comes out, the archipelago always hidden under overcast and nimbus clouds. Like the current pandemic, this fucked-up climate also brought up a new normal: illegal vitamins, expensive bulalo soup, private flood control companies, and maybe, expensive umbrellas. The neverending rain lasted for years and years that there are people who were born without seeing the sun nor experience a sunny day.
Among those are the two main characters in the story: the flood control worker and the call center agent. In one scene, the guy looks up to the sky and asks a co-worker (who’s older than him) what was it like seeing the sun. In another, the call center agent chats with the security guard in the convenience store about how it was before and after the climate changed.
Framed as an unlikely love story, an impending romance after a meet-cute in a convenience store, the movie is also able translate some of our present problems into a (not really) futuristic setting. Like for instance, a college diploma hanging on the guy’s wall tells of underemployment. The company he’s working for is privately owned. Despite the high demand for flood control, there’s a mass layoff near the end of the film. Since it was made in 2014, the movie somehow, predicted a future where “endo” has not ended yet.
Ironically, the flood control worker lives in a house that’s perpetually flooded, sleeps in a bed that more or less doubles as flotation device which may or may not save him from drowning from rainwater while asleep. While call center jobs relatively pays more, there’s a scene where the girl has to work two shifts since her co-worker is going to take a vacation in another country. That her company offers travel packages to other countries “where it’s more fun and sunny” somehow mirrors the gloomy state or lack of job opportunities here as compared overseas.
With limited running time, Tila wasn’t really able to flesh out its will they or won’t they plot—if it’s really that it’s aiming for. But it was able to say a lot. Technically, you’d be impressed on how the filmmakers were able to achieved the movie’s constantly gloomy look. While watching the movie, I thought of how shooting the movie on rainy days must have been a logistics nightmare. It turns out, the rain was actually integrated digitally unto the frames.