Despite strong performances from the two lead actors, A Girl and A Guy doesn’t really say anything new about how Gen Z approach and treats love and relationships.
A lot has been said about Gen Z and Millennials. Some call the generation the future saviors of the planet. Others say they are ruining the world. They disrespect tradition. They stop past practices that are deemed dangerous for the environment. Gen Z doesn’t want to have a family, they are lazy, they are innovative, and a whole lot more. Because of this, people, mostly from the older generations try to study and understand how Gen Z ticks, which sometimes leads to misguided conclusions.
This can be seen in Erik Matti’s latest movie, A Girl and A Guy, the first Upstream exclusive movie. You may know him from critically acclaimed films like Honor Thy Father and On The Job. He said that he made this movie to understand Gen Z and the generation of his two daughters. Erik Matti also said that he envisioned A Girl and A Guy as what The Breakfast Club or Reality Bites were to his generation. However, the movie is anything but that. While it’s admirable for Erik Matti to make this kind of movie, it can also be seen that the movie was made by an older generation trying to understand Gen Z and not from someone part of Gen Z, which makes for an uneven movie.
THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF GEN Z
The movie follows Fiona (Alexa Miro) and Raf (Rob Gomez) two people in their early twenties trying to find their way in life. In the first five minutes of the movie, both of them experience heartbreak, which leads them on a journey of love, connection, and self-discovery. Raf and Fiona do not meet each other until halfway through the movie so the first half is just each of them dealing with their own situation. A Girl and A Guy presents relatable enough stories on finding your passion and love in your 20s. Fiona is a PA of a production company and is trying to find her self-worth and whether or not what she is doing is what she loves. Raf works at a PR company and struggles with long-term commitment and maturity. Besides these though, the movie doesn’t present these stories in a groundbreaking way.
AN UNDERWHELMING STORY
Since Raf and Fiona don’t meet until halfway through the movie, it feels like you’re watching two different movies play out in the first half. Fiona and Raf are dealing with their own problems and storylines in the first hour that intersect in the second. A Girl and A Guy’s first half is supposed to show how to two protagonists’ dating experiences and sexual exploits come off as episodic and fleeting. But that doesn’t make for an engaging story. When the movie tries to talk about five different things at the same time, you’ll be left with unsatisfying answered for each one.
By the second half, however, the movie picks up its pace and does get better as the plot gets more focused on what it wants to say. Raf and Fiona have changed by this point in the story and you get meaningful conversations as the two of them try to navigate a pre- and post-pandemic world. The scene where Fiona and Raf meet and talk to each other at a party is one of the best scenes of the movie since it leaves them to tell their own story.
The movie also tries to add little flourishes to make the movie feel more youthful. Some characters are introduced with a title card that looks like it came from a slam book. Later in the movie, Fiona goes on Tinder dates and she is seen walking around a virtual space as she is browsing through profiles. But once again it sometimes comes off as trying too hard to feel relatable to the youth. The film feels stronger when it drops the gimmicks and focuses on what these characters are going through and that already makes the movie feel more relatable.
THE MOVIE’S PORTRAYAL OF SEX
Where the movie does try to deviate is through its portrayal of sex in the copious amount of sex scenes, especially during the first half. Given how the youth are more sexually open than past generations, the movie portrays sex as a casual event. The movie wants to say that people have sex, and to many people, it’s not that big of a deal and isn’t really the big step it’s been made out to be in decades of media. While there’s nothing wrong with this approach to sex, in fact, it’s actually quite commendable, the problem is that it does it in a way that you can tell the filmmakers are trying hard to make it seem like it’s not a big deal.
There’s a montage involving Raf and his older workplace girlfriend having sex whenever and wherever they can and while that can lead to some funny situations, it can also feel needlessly gratuitous and even brushes off the serious consequences of such actions. A Girl and A Guy ends up shooting itself in the foot by being too edgy. There’s nothing wrong with A Girl and A Guy openly talking about explicit topics, but there are times where it turns what should be serious topics into edgy scenes just to be edgy.
At least A Girl and A Guy can lay claim to the fact that it has excellent performances from the two lead actors and an overall great cast. Despite not having any big names attached to the movie, A Girl and A Guy features a cast that you want to follow. Alexa Miro and Rob Gomez played Fiona and Raf impressively and the fact that this is their first leading role makes it even better.
Alexa Miro imbues Fiona with this young and naïve girl energy who is able to transform herself into a young mature woman. Rob Gomez, meanwhile, plays Raf with this I don’t care and borderline playboy attitude who is able to see the error in his ways. It was also nice that the movie was set almost entirely in Baguio as it was a refreshing sight to see a movie take place in a major city outside of Manila. The movie took advantage of its setting and showed unique locations.
A GIRL AND A GUY IS NO THE BREAKFAST CLUB
Overall, A Girl and A Guy makes a series of choices seemingly designed to make things more exciting, or feel more youthful, and more relatable to young millennials and Gen Z. Those choices though are hit-or-miss. The movie only hits its stride when it stops trying to be too different and hones in on its simple sense of empathy for a generation constantly trying to find themselves in a world where forevers feel like a fantasy. It actually does a good job at hinting at the anxiety and uncertainty that the current generation is facing especially in the scenes during the pandemic, and it would have made for a better film if it concentrated on that theme more.
A Girl and A Guy is not the Philippine version of The Breakfast Club. It’s also no Submarine or Me and Earl, and the Dying Girl. Filipino movies like Never Not Love You and Alone/Together manage to hit the mark with their tales of Gen Z love loss, and uncertainty. Where A Girl and A Guy stumbles is that it tries too hard to be youthful, as if it’s holding a sign that says, “Hey kids, look at me, I’m so cool.” It comes off as tacky and distracts from the excellent performances of Alexa Miro and Rob Gomez. The movie tried but couldn’t stick the landing with its Gen Z love story.
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