Still thinking about that one particular scene from Fan Girl (no, not the dick pic)
When it was announced that MMFF 2020 was going digital this year, I honestly sighed in relief. I’m one of those people who actually spends time watching local films, whether for a good laugh or a cry (or as close to it as I can get). And like every year that came before it, 2020’s lineup had the usual choices: the comedies, the dramas, the WTFs and the clear standouts.
For me and for 2020, that standout was Fan Girl.
I first met Charlie Dizon a few months ago, when the film had its go at the Tokyo International Film Festival. We talked about her career, how she was picked to star in Fan Girl, the experience of filming and, naturally, the film’s premise. That brief interview and the taglines and synopsis that were tethered to the film were enough to get me interested.
“Never meet your heroes.”
Fan Girl takes place over the course of a few days, and truly begins when Paulo Avelino (playing a fictional version of himself) finds Jane (Dizon) in his provincial home. Unlit, unfurnished and stripped down to the bare necessities, it’s this home that becomes the setting for most of the film. It’s inside this eerie mansion that Jane and Paulo find out truths about themselves and each other. Paulo is not the leading man of our dreams, and Jane is so much more than the school girl she quite literally looks to be.
It sounds like the meeting of our nightmares, the realization no one ever hopes to internalize. Every scene breaks through the glass floor you could swear is the lowest of the low. Just when you think the film could not get any darker, it does. But it’s beautiful, too.
While the scenes could go for more literal lighting, they are intentionally shot. And in those early moments when Jane still confuses real Paulo with the dream boy in her head, the difference is stark and is painful in its obviousness. And yet, despite this slap in the face, you actually start to miss the dreamy (read: cheesy) scenes as the film continues on its plot. The light, no matter how fake, is something you want to go back to.
The character developments of Jane and Paulo are not what you would expect. They grow in those brief days they spend with each other, sure, but what we see unfold on screen is more an unraveling of the existing personas as opposed to the standard coming of age story. There isn’t love to be found here; there is only the appreciation of the strength built from necessity—which is something we can all relate to.
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Fan Girl is a brilliant film, yes, and there are so many levels to it that we need to see. Substitute Paulo Avelino for that one official you’ve put your hope on all these years and all the choices they’ve publicly made thus far. Replace him with that lover you still put on a pedestal despite all the red flags and damage you’re still trying to mend. Imagine him as the one good thing in your life that gives you hope, and how a clearer lens—or enough time with the idea—might just be the cause of your pitfall.
And while the underlying messaging of the film (at least, the ones I received) are a little disturbing and hit a little too close to home, there are scenes within Fan Girl that are disturbing at face value.
So, in case you haven’t already watched it, get ready. We’re no strangers to sex and underage drinking, but when they are a means to an end—especially if the end is like that in Fan Girl—then things start to take on a different meaning.
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The MMFF 2020 season is officially and technically over. But Fan Girl is still available for the worthwhile stream. So if you’re in the mood for something eye opening and frightening in its genuine possibilities, then you’re still in luck.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver