Romance Meets Reality in the Day After Valentines
"An apology is not a requirement for forgiveness. It's a path to freedom from that which hurt you."
We live in a world built with science, facts, numbers, and objective thoughts founded upon evidence. However, all these concrete things, despite their fullness, cannot attribute to the wholeness of the world we live in. For, in a world striving in the reality our fore-fathers have founded, lies a deeper existence rooted in emotions and utter subjectivity. A world that often pushes the tangible that the mind can sense against the abstract that only our hearts can fathom. The story, behind the movie, we'll review is muddled with such uncertainties that it meets all my criteria of a good movie; one brimming with definite confusion, and yet teeming with living emotions. Today is The Day After Valentines.
The Story Unfolds
The movie begins with the characters Kaimana (Kai) Ramos and Leilani (Lani) Murphy, interacting through a phone call as Kai exits a night club, where he's with family and friends. Lani who's already outside, across the other side of the street, lies as Kai asks how long before she arrives; saying 15 minutes. Lani sets her alarm, as we see a flashback of how Kai and Lani met. One cloudy night, Kai enters a thrift shop where Lani works asking for arm socks. The night ended with Lani learning what the arm socks are for; Kai's self-harm wounds. We then go back to Lani, startled from her flashback by the alarm she set. She enters the night club with trepidation.
Inside the night club, Lani meets up with Kai. It's here we see our first glimpse of Lani's clear distance from reality. Where in her mind she meets Kai with a happy and joyous welcome from his family and friends but gets jolted by the apathetic hello that Kai gives her; together with the unnerving awkwardness of Kai's company. Another instance that shows us Lani's clear break from reality was when she went to the dance floor to enjoy the music. We see Lani enjoying the song she says was her jam, then the whole dance floor erupts in a number with her in the middle, seeming to be the center of attention while obviously beckoning to Kai - gesturing the words she dare not say "I'm here for you." Then we the audience, together with Lani, are pulled back into a depressing reality of a Lani dancing nonsensically with almost everyone gazing at her with judgmental eyes.
Moving the story forward, we see how caring Kai is with Lani as he walks her to his car. Lani, visibly drunk, asks Kai if he wants to go on a date with him tomorrow, valentine's day. Kai says he's with family and is going to La Union and that maybe they can just meet the day after Valentine's. We then move back to a flashback of their time together last year after they met in the thrift store where Lani works.
At this point in the story, it's unknown why Lani was bemused with Kai, a lonely man who when they first met she may have even thought of as a beggar, and was even prepared to hit him with a broom inside the store. She accompanies him however through the following days. Eventually growing more fond of him, the feeling was mutual it seems like it, because Kai was also falling for Lani. They went out together, under the pretense of friendship, until they came to Kai's house. Here Lani starts to peel off the surface of Kai's story. She learns he was dumped by a girl named Anne. That his family was immigrants to Hawaii and he was in the Philippines only for a short while which turned into 3 years stay coz he wanted to be with Anne; and that he drifted apart from his family because of Anne.
Inside Kai's room, Lani learned that Kai's ex was into Baybayin. A pre-Spanish colonial-era language and writing system that the natives in the islands, that would be known as the Philippines, used. So Lani started writing in Baybayin too in an attempt to help Kai heal. This became a theme in their story together. Showing signs written in Baybayin to each other, a sort of endearing language only they can understand. In return, Kai teaches her a few Hawaiian words like Aloha and Mahalo. Together with the growth of their relationship is the healing the Kai manifests through the slow fading of his wounds and scars. The very same ones he was trying to hide with the arm sock he bought from Lani when they first met.
Eventually, it seems that Kai needs to go back to Hawaii, as his visa was about to expire. We see him asking Lani to accompany him there. Lani - without any trace of doubt - agrees, but only if she pays for her own fare and stay. We see through this development in the story that Lani is an incredibly independent woman. She pulled together all her resources, even loaning money from the owner of the thrift shop she works for, and calling in some loans of her own to put up the money she needs to travel to Hawaii; and so they went to Hawaii.
On arrival, they were welcomed by Kai's older brother, Keanu. Who tours them on their first day across the island of Lanai. Kai, throughout the tour, seems distressed and anxious about something we, the audience, will know soon. At the end of their short tour, the brothers drop Lani off at her Airbnb. While Keanu is out of sight, Kai tells Lani he's worried. He's concerned that his mom might not welcome him back with open arms. That his family may already be too far from him to go back to, in spirit, after the three years he's acted like the prodigal son - so his brother says. Lani could not say anything about this, hinting at something deeper in the surface of Lani's smiles and mischief. Eventually, the brothers left.
Lani receives a phone call that night from her brother. It's the first time ever in the movie we were introduced to Lani's family. Their conversation was short, where the brother was asking Lani if she'll come home for their mother's birthday, and Lani ending the call awkwardly. Here we see the true person behind the cheeriness of her soul. Reality is catching up with Lani. The next day, Lani learns that Kai is now perfectly fine, and even bonded well with his family. This intrigued and even worried Lani to some extent. Something's brewing in her mind and heart. You can see how she's distraught.
In this trip, Kai tries to open the question of whether Lani likes him or not. To which Lani swiftly avoids answering by claiming it's not clear for her yet. Kai claims that he likes her for sure, but near the end of their tour he steps on the breaks by saying when she goes back to the Philippines, he won't be with her. That he wants to stay longer in Hawaii to try and help mend his separation from his family more by helping out around the house, working at a hotel to try and add more value to their family. Lani sees this as an eventual abandonment and decides to call it a night.
Inside Lani's AirBnB, Lani and Kai try to consummate the pent-up affections they have for each other bu Lani, probably in a feat of disappointment and abandonment stops them and asks "Where is this going?" to which Kai has no good answer. Lani hits Kai's fear of commitment on the spot to which Kai retaliates by catching Lani's fear of emotions and abandonment. They ended the night hoping to see each other again when Kai is finished with his goal of becoming much closer to his mom again. Kai promises he'll go back to the Philippines for her soon.
While in the Philippines, Lani is forced to face her own past, in the form of her brother, George, who happens upon her as she was walking back home. He comes with the news that their mom suffered a stroke the previous day and is now in the hospital. It's at this moment, we uncover the truth of Lani's past. Lani was fathered by an American war veteran, who was cruel and abusive towards Lani treating her as a metaphorical punching bag every time she comes home from school.
Sadly, neither her mom, brother, or aunt did anything to protect her for what it seems to be fear of losing their only source of livelihood, her father. The pain of her past is visible on the scars she has on her back which throughout the course of the story she keeps on hiding from Kai. On two occasions, when Kai was inviting her to go skinny dipping in a small pond created by an opening near the beach, filled by the ocean waves, and another - the night when they were about to get intimate. It would seem that her scar, or the fear of Kai seeing them, stopped her from making out with Kai.
In the following scenes, we see her breakdown with anger and sadness in her family. She tries to put things back together following these scenes but it seems that she truly is alone - holding on to the hope that Kai will come back for her. Christmas came, then New Year, and yet no signs of Kai. Until February, she receives a phone call from him saying he's coming back to the Philippines. She was happy at this news, got up from bed excitedly running to her desk, and writing down details of his arrival, asking him "Should I pick you up at the airport?". To which he answers "No. I'm going back with my family, we plan to visit our relatives in La Union." Lani visibly, and undeniably stuck down by this news. Caught off guard by the loss of the only remaining reality she thought she had, Kai.
We flash forward to Lani and Kai in the car. Where finally she accepts, in front of a worried Kai, that she is broken. Confused. Ruined by her past. Hurt by her father beyond repair. Abandoned by her family to suffer her father's wrath. That the treasure chest he thought he found in her, an independent and strong woman, was actually a broken toy deep inside. She yearns for his love when in all sorrow he has lost love for her in their time apart. This Kai admittedly says to her. She yells "I fixed you!" "When you were down, I brought you back up!" "You should be mine!". Kai answers "Is that really what you want? That I love you because I owe you?"
They ended the night with Kai slapped on the face, and Lani laughing as she slowly gets over her pain of losing him, showing for real, the strong woman underneath all the confetti of pain she's feeling. He asks her out on a date the next day, on Valentine's day. To which she says "I think I'm busy tomorrow, maybe the day after valentines." She finally has the strength to visit her mother, sadly too late as the latter have died and was buried beside her husband.
I would give this movie a solid 89 out of 100. I love the twists around the plot where we were led to assume that the story was about a man finding his way back to his family through the help of a woman filled with cheerfulness and strength. There were so many hooks, scenes that led me to believe on first browse that the protagonist was Kaimana. But upon the closer watch, and with a more clear eye, I learned that the whole story was Leilani's story arc. A developmental journey from a woman who ran away from the fear and pain of her past. Pretending to be strong, and eventually latching onto a future she seems certain about in Kai. However, the rugs of the illusion she set up around her have been pulled right under her feet, exposing her again to the realities of abandonment, betrayal, and depression. She learned from Kai, as Kai learned from her. That forgiveness was hard, but not unachievable.
The story completed its turn as Lani discovers that there are things more important than love and pain. That these can come second after the truths of everyday life. Embodiments of the tangible that surround us are more important. Always second in nature, the idyllic settings that we try to surround ourselves with. May it be a lover, a friend, a life we try to have - all of these are but facades of what we may be running away from; and that facing them should come first before the romanticized version of the lives we want to have. That resolving the pain of our past must come first, and that we can wrap ourselves around the shroud of love, affection, and warmth the Day After Valentines.
Rhiz Manalo is the co-partner to CentrAsia Tours a Central Asia Tourism Agency, Managing Partner of Digital Kitchen Philippines, experts in corporate and SMB digitization. He is a seasoned digital marketing expert, an experienced blogger, systems architect, web designer, and a loving father to a beautiful 7-year-old girl whom he misses so much!
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