It took several years for Irene Villamor to finish her script for “Ulan”, . This fantasy-romance further develops the character of a little curious girl Maya, the main protagonist of Villamor’s 5-minute student short. Over the years, Villamor added ideas and moods to introduce Maya, an adult that has not let her child-self go.

Ulan is screening at the San Diego Asian Film Festival:

Maya (Nadine Lustre) is young and fair and single. The last one might have something to do with her childhood and some fantastic creatures she’s encountered. Or, maybe, with the curse she believes sticks with her. Now she might be living with her aunt and uncle, but she grew up with grandma and her stories and pieces of folk wisdom. And what strange days that were. The rain (ulan in Tagalog) was still a mystery that could be prevented by offering eggs. Unless you angered heavens by doing something that should not be. A little wonder off into the woods might have ended with a little chat with mystical tikbalangs. Yet, Maya believes the rain is her curse. Every time something good happens to her, it starts to rain all of a sudden. Could it be, that falling for Peter (Carlo Aquino) breaks the curse?

With the color palette, the soft contrasts and the fairytale-ish musical soundtrack, “Ulan” doesn’t let you in doubt about love being in the air. The very muted pastel shades of a 1950s hip milkshake joint first seem to be reserved for the memories. Also, they work well with the idea of the thinness of the veil between the realms of humans and magical creatures. At least for Maya who never loses touch with the fantasy world.

“Ulan” plays with several ideas and messages turning Maya’s story into a myth of a sort. The narrative is full of intriguing and charming details. The scenes play out, quirky as some of them are. Nonetheless, the lengthy script development took its toll. While it thought of the details and moments in the story, somehow, it lost touch with the whole picture. Some of those elements just feel incidental without really adding to the overall build-up of the story arc. At moments, this applies to the supporting roles that just are and do nothing. They might represent some real-life issues, yet don’t add to Maya’s motivation, nor to the dynamics of the story.

With all that said, “Ulan” is still an OK romance with charming ornaments. When the finale comes, it lets all the rain to kick in. And in a way, it closes a circle and fully connects the grandma’s pearls of wisdom with the happenings in Maya’s life. Yet, it takes some time to get the flow, to really build up. And it does not exactly manage to suppress the clichés of Philippines romantic films.

Hello everyone! Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be an actress. I absolutely adored Greta Garbo. Far from her looks and even further from her talents, I ditched acting as a professional career option and went for film studies. It must have been sometimes in my early teens, which is still too late if you look at the origin stories of my colleagues, I fell for action cinema and cinemas of the Far East. Depending on who asks, the answer to "why" question is either: 1/ The lighting style just hit me in the guts, or 2/ Have you really seen those men? (Up until now, I would welcome Han Suk-kyu to read me anything.) I program the Asian sidebars "Eastern Promises" at Art Film Fest Košice and "Queer Asia" for Slovak Queer Film Festival. Both in Slovakia. I come from there. Oh, and I talk quite a lot. So long, and thanks for all the fish.