Review by Brylle Fajardo
100 Tula Para Kay Stella begins in 2004, with Fidel (JC Santos), a stuttering college freshman deprived of self-confidence. Stella (Bela Padilla), is also a freshman who aspires to become a rockstar. They cross paths on a freshman night, and with Stella courteous to Fidel, he immediately develops a liking to her. Throughout their years in college, Fidel remains skeptical of confessing. But finally decides to, once he finishes 100 poems for her.
What’s great about this film is that it know what it is and what it wants to be. It stays grounded to its premise and does its best to live up to it. Consequently, it innovatively blurs the line between mainstream and indie filmmaking, as it bravely integrates some elements that are rarely seen in mainstream cinema. It paradoxically has an abrupt, smooth shifting of tones, reminiscent of Laxamana’s previous films. In one sequence, Fidel is narrating a dreamy poem he had just written about Stella, but what’s shown onscreen is clearly in contrast to how Stella was depicted in the said poem. The uncanny dissimilarity disported works as an effective catalyst to signify the tone shift and the non-parallelism between the two main leads.
Fidel, despite consisting much of the film’s runtime, doesn’t exhibit much substance into it. Instead, he comes off as a bit one-dimensional as the eccentricity of his character isn’t given much depth. The browbeating Fidel suffered from in the first half of the movie seemed to only be a tool for sympathy, and was dematerialized without really being presented a resolution. With that said, the character doesn’t really have much conflict. With the development of the character seeming to be rather convenient, it suffers to feel as genuine. On the other hand, Stella is displayed as an excellent character study in the form of a frustrated rockstar who’s willing to do so much just to gain recognition. Her character is authentic, with vulnerability that is intimately connective to the audience. Both characters were played so well by their respective actors, that most of its character writing flaws can easily be overlooked in just a glance.
While 100 Tula Para Kay Stella may be simplistic in its filmmaking, it still manages to be resonant and interesting. It’s a film that is familiar, but definitely not wearisome to be deemed as weak. Bittersweet, yet still so delightful, Jason Paul Laxamana’s new entry in his filmography stands strong and firm as it is different to what we’ve previously seen from him, and new to our taste in films of this kind, which brings us to one conclusion… If you liked Kita Kita, then it’s guaranteed that you’ll dig 100 Tula Para Kay Stella as well.
100 Tula Para Kay Stella opens in Philippine cinemas on August 16 as part of Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino. Distributed by VIVA Films. Rated PG by the MTRCB.