Wild and Free is an erotic love story about two former lovers who unexpectedly meet again years after they separated. It’s a simple premise that could result in different outcomes but before it could, it dives into a montage of flashbacks that reveal the highs and lows of a failed relationship.
What could be more romantic and relatable than the idea of reconnecting with your ex?
Some might argue that it’s an overused concept, but it’s bait that hooks viewers all the time. One sordid love story is different from the next, and everybody just wants to hear all the details.
Sanya Lopez is Ellie, a self-supporting young woman who meets Jake (Derrick Monasterio), a handsome, privileged, but disturbed balikbayan who falls for Ellie the moment he sets eyes on her.
Sanya is a natural at playing the fiercely independent car sales agent and despite her artistahin looks, it wasn’t hard to believe that she was hustling through being middle class.
Derrick, on the other hand, was able to execute the “disturbed” aspect of his character. He had the roguish persona down pat. He seemed to have a glazed expression in his eyes all the time, and we hope that was intentional.
The supporting cast members all shone in their respective roles. The members of Jake’s family—his mom as played the youthful Cheska Diaz and a brother in Juancho Trivino—appear to be truly related.
Ash Ortega—the sassy and liberated confidant of our female protagonist—basked in the shallowness of her supportive cum supporting role.
Wild and Free is timely. It uses relevant atmospheric elements that you just can’t miss: Ellie and Jake meeting by accident through a transport network vehicle service, the pervasive use of social media, taking selfies, shacking up in a condo, walwalan, custom bikes, and unapologetically hot, steamy sex.
Derrick does appear so hungry when he kisses Sanya—he could have swallowed her whole. Their kisses were urgent and it did seem like a realistic and satisfying sexual pairing.
The film also uses interesting—but sometimes forced—metaphors to illustrate what happens next, and certain lines in the dialogue allude to the common hugot of your basic babe. Again, relatable.
It’s flimsy right at the beginning. Whoever/whatever Ellie was talking to/watching on her phone while she was inside her car was quite annoying. It didn’t add real value to the opening of the film.
It starts off dragging and 30 minutes into the film, you find yourself wondering when Ellie and Jake’s conversations are going to sound more natural but still interesting. Some of the dialogue sound contrived, perhaps because inserting an allusion was a bigger priority in certain instances.
At some point, you wonder when their supposed attraction is going to feel real—when they’re not having sex, that is.
That might just be the big problem here: it doesn’t feel like Ellie and Jake are truly in love. Sure, they’re hot for each other when their clothes come off, but their scenes outside the bedroom lack the kilig factor. While Derrick and Sanya are able to deliver fair portrayal of their respective characters, genuine chemistry does not exist between them.
You know how you know Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are slowly falling helplessly in love in Before Sunrise; or to give a local example, how John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo’s eyes glimmer with mutual admiration in their past films even if they aren’t remotely close to being smitten with each other in real life? Sanya and Derrick don’t have that in Wild and Free, unfortunately.
When they do make mad, passionate love on the big screen, you aren’t turned on as much despite their explicit manifestations of arousal, big actions, and graphic depiction of foreplay. It’s because they don’t seem truly enamored with each other—it’s all for show.
The development of Derrick’s character was sluggishly slow. In any story, it’s important to establish the main characters’ individual personas early. They need separate identities and lead actual lives beyond their motives, objectives, and the beginning action or in this case, outside the courtship and eventual relationship.
Up until Jake puts up his own bike shop, it appears that the only thing he does in life is to woo Ellie, which makes his character flat. Whether he was a businessman or a spoiled tambay with a trust fund, it could have been established earlier in the story.
The pace of storytelling is slow and the build-up—however long—is weak. The integration of flashbacks into the plot should have created a feeling of nostalgia and loss as you jump from the present to the past, but it doesn’t.
There are more than enough cliché scenes showing the couple riding Jake’s bike out of town and on the beach, but none when they were most needed.
It’s understandable that Sanya can bare only so much skin—this is her first time to go truly sensual for the camera, after all; but the love scenes would have been more effective had there been more frames allocated for the creative depiction of the couple’s lovemaking. Showing other body parts without showing sensitive parts to evoke arousal would have been more enticing than, say, five seconds of Sanya’s bare back.
While it’s wonderful that the film made use of homegrown music from indie artists as opposed to cheesy old school OPM ballads, it could actually have benefited from inserting some music—just a line or two would do—in those otherwise boring moments.
There are loopholes. It isn’t clear why or how Jake became such a nutcase. This puts mental illness in a bad light.
Ellie was able to stalk Jake on social media before they started dating, but didn’t even try to get in touch with him when he suddenly left, which contradicts the earlier impression of how powerful technology has become.
So, did they get back together? It's for viewers to find out.
Wild and Free is a brave attempt at innovative filmmaking. It’s a good step for a mainstream studio toward making better, non-formulaic films.
Its use of non-linear storytelling, metaphors, allusions, and other creative elements tells us that commercial filmmaking can attempt to be artistic as well. That commercial filmmaking isn’t just about big name movie stars, rags-to-riches sob stories, overused slapstick, or aswang in horror movies. It can be about the lives of simple folk and still pique our interest.
Wild and Free is an honest look into adulthood and the progress of modern relationships. It does not back down from the reality that yes, sex has become part of the lives of most dating couples and it’s here to stay. It is an eye opener for folk who still refuse to be open about their sexuality.
The film is so honest and relatable that it might as well be your story, or the story of someone you know, and it is happening NOW.
It also champions strong and independent women. Sanya does a good job at showing the audience that women can step out of traditional and conservative molds to do whatever they want, and succeed.
There’s an unexpected twist in the plot and we have to admit, it is a big surprise. Too much of a surprise, you begin to question its viability. But, shock value it is! It’s a shock especially for Derrick’s character, who experienced inner turmoil because of it. His scenes were truly disturbing and Jake really does seem troubled.
Wild and Free has a stirring premise. It could have been a beautiful story, admittedly. Maybe the next time the filmmakers create something as ambitious, they just need to use tighter stitches when they sew the film’s elements together to improve the storytelling.
Wild and Free, which is now showing in cinemas nationwide, is graded B by the Cinema Evaluation Board. The film is directed by Connie S. A. Macatuno and produced by Regal Entertainment.
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial team.