At the heart of Emerson Reyes’ “MNL 143” is Ramil (Allan Paule) who has raked the populace of Metro Manila within the last 5 years searching for Mila (Joy Viado), the girl who got away. They were supposed to share a future together, but 13 years ago, Ramil up and left without saying goodbye, but for a letter saying he was leaving town to work abroad. Big mistake. He has since returned home to make amends.
But today was Ramil’s last day. Five years into his search, he’s throwing down the towel and taking another stint for a job overseas (Saudi Arabia). Mila was never found. Regret cloaks Ramil’s remaining hours in the chaotic metropolis. As he winds down his day, a familiar face flags down the FX taxi Ramil is driving. What’s left of his romantic past?
Framing Ramil’s eleventh hour search is a cornucopia of characters who come and go, as passengers hop in and out of our protagonist’s taxi, as he plies the Philcoa-to-Fairview route: a testy old woman who does nothing but complain; two would-be OFWs whose interest is piqued by a Japanese seatmate; a wife who unexpectedly learns of his hubby’s job dismissal; a couple of enthusiastic film students; a cell phone snatcher; a band of gay men discussing the ritual of giving gifts to their disengaged lovers.
The constant and kinetic introduction of a variety of characters may insinuate passage of time to highlight Ramil’s emotional logrolling, but they don’t contribute much to the main narrative. In fact, much of it is cinematic ruse and deflects from the story at hand. The central plot has been disregarded in favor of the tacky page-flipping of its hundred-and-one disparate anecdotes. Allan Paule packs an insightful wallop as the regretful Ramil. Unfortunately, his chemistry with Joy Viado is awkward; a major blunder – only individuals with lofty invention would consider it brilliant casting. It wasn't The pairing itself displays parsimonious chemistry. It is misguided at best; the product of an obstinate, albeit arrogant artistry. That’s just too bad since director Emerson Reyes is technically proficient. His story telling is a different matter altogether.