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REVIEW: 'Under Parrallel Skies' takes us on a Hong Kong exploration but fails to take off

By Mikhail Lecaros Published Apr 21, 2024 3:17 pm

Is it too soon to ask for a remake?

Worlds collide in Under Parallel Skies, a romantic comedy starring the Philippines’ Janella Salvador (So Connected, Mallari) alongside Thai heartthrob Win Metawin (of TV’s Enigma and F4 Thailand).

Conceived as a vehicle to showcase Hong Kong beyond the usual tourist spots, the film’s yarn of finding love in unexpected places was written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Sigrid Andrea Bernardo (Kita Kita).

When Pinay receptionist Iris (Janella) meets Thai rich kid Parin (Win), she is initially repulsed. Tasked with keeping an eye on the oft-inebriated heir, the two get to know each other and a relationship blooms that will change their lives in ways neither could have imagined.

The notion of setting a love story against a backdrop of Hong Kong’s lesser-known areas is, in and of itself, intriguing. There are token sojourns to Victoria Harbour’s iconic waterfront, to be sure, but Under Parallel Skies marks one of the few times that the likes of Tai O fishing town and Peng Chau Island have been featured outside of Chinese media. Indeed, their rustic charms prove such a refreshing respite from the city’s hustle and bustle, it’s mentioned multiple times in dialogue.

Aside from the travelogue material, the main attractions here are the stars themselves, with each leaning into tried-and-tested genre personas that don’t entirely fit what they’re being asked to do.

Make no mistake, Salvador and Metawin are immensely charismatic in their own rights, but for the first half of the film, they may as well be in different movies.

Whether this is the result of having to act in English, differing performative styles, or just spotty writing overall, the juxtaposition of Parin’s forlorn search for his mother with Iris’ manic pixie dream girl antics never really nails the intended emotional beats.

This is clear from the outset, as the actors’ discomfort with playful English banter robs the dialogue of whatever wit or snap it may have had, to say nothing of the characters’ (ostensible) chemistry. This emotional disconnect looms over the entire film and its thematic message of enjoying life to the fullest while one is able.

The performances improve slightly once Parin’s maternal issues are resolved, but all goodwill goes out the window when the final act’s “twist” rears its head. There are precedents, of course, for tragic love stories, but most have the courtesy of building up to their endings.

Had the filmmakers spent more time on workshopping the central relationship, they probably wouldn’t have had to close their movie on a barrage of overwrought exposition and mixed messages, but one can only comment on what was presented. To wit: what happens here to create drama is so contrived and hackneyed, that one can only absorb the proceedings as one would an easily avoidable car crash. 

There was every potential to tell a compelling story here, rendering the ineptitude we got seem almost deliberate. Ironically, in their quest to sell Southeast Asian viewers on Hong Kong’s lesser-known attractions, the filmmakers ended up drawing from Western romcoms’ worst impulses. Regardless of one’s country of origin, that’s just sad (and not in the way the film intended) – Salvador and Metawin deserved so much better.

Watch the trailer for Under Parallel Skies below.