Sid and Aya (Not A Love Story) is a film about exactly what it sounds like: the relationship between Sid (Dingdog Dantes) and Aya (Anne Curtis), but Sid is really the protagonist. He is an insomniac stockbroker with a potential pill problem. When he can’t sleep, he frequents a coffee shop in his neighborhood where he meets Aya, an employee.
The film begins with a voiceover from Sid explaining all of the reasons he cannot sleep, and one of them is, of course, “her.” The film then shows a flashback of a scene wherein Aya tells Sid she loves him through the window. Later on, when we see this shot in the cinematic present, it turns out that Aya’s affection was only to win a bet. She tells Sid outside the shop that the first of the employees to say “I love you” to him wins the bet.
His internal monologue dictates that he isn’t into getting to know people he doesn’t “need,” but something about Aya compels him and he invites her to spend some time with him, but she won’t do it for free. He offers her $1,000 an hour for her conversation when he cannot sleep.
Stylistically the film is quite dynamic. For me, coming from a western context, steeped in mostly western films, Sid and Aya in interesting to watch because of its breaking of the 180-degree rule, as well as its frequently changing shot scale. The film is also auditorily interesting as characters frequently switch between Tagalog and English. These two aspects create a cinematic dynamism that goes beyond that of the film’s plot.
Aya sees right through Sid’s semi-fake deep bullshit. When he tells her that what we love eventually kills us, she scoffs, shakes her head and replies, “we all die, and that’s that.” After that night, they start to run into each other. Turns out, Aya not only works at Sid’s usual coffee shop, but also at his dry cleaner as well.
The film tries to interrogate moral questions: Sid’s morality working for an investment firm and Aya’s morality smoking cigarettes. Aya tells her they’re probably the same, but he is probably a little bit worse. Sid scopes out a politician and a few businesses that he thinks will soon merge their assets. If that happens, he says, there will be protests but that they won’t amount to much. His partner replies, “Fucking protesters, aren’t they tired? The strong will always prey on the weak. Nothing’s ever fair.”
Sid goes to find Aya at her third job, where she is a theme park performer. He shares his news about his partner as though she asked! Aya tells him off, asking if she’s his girlfriend now and where his actual girlfriend is: out of the country. She tells him they can be friends at an increased rate.
Aya works her three jobs to make money for her family, especially for her ill father. One night, Sid starts to recite to her the facts of the top 1% of wealth owners, unironically. Aya stops him and tell her that since she’s poor, she already understands the consequences of wealth inequality.
Obviously, their relationship grows to be more intimate. Aya begins to seek Sid out on her own. Even though the film is centered around Sid, Aya is what textures the film. She engages her struggles with personality, humor and vibrancy – qualities that Sid does not seem to share. He watches her in awe.
This is a film that subverts your expectations of the romantic drama. In its opening monologue, you think this is going to be a story of a once-passionate and loving relationship that went up in flames. What you’re greeted with is the semi-tumultuous pairing of two very unlikely companions. But of course, it is also a film that fills your expectations as well; there is a love story, even if it’s one that feels unconventional at first, and I don’t think I’m mad at that.