‘A Journey’ 2024 Review: Netflix Filipino Film Tries Really Hard To Be A Tearjerker


When it comes to movies about cancer, they are most likely to be on the melancholic side of things. A Journey tells the story of a young woman whose cancer has relapsed, and she doesn’t want to go through the treatment again. Instead, she wants to spend the rest of her time enjoying life and doing the things she’s always wanted to do—a bucket list of exciting adventures to celebrate her life with her dear husband and their best friend. For the most part, A Journey, as the title suggests, is an on-the-road film, like many before it. There’s nothing nuanced about it, except for the fact that it was Filipino. For someone who didn’t know anything about Filipino films for the longest time, I’ve watched two this week, and both were very different from each other. The first was a historical drama about Spanish occupancy, and this one is a bleak film about goodbyes, but somehow they both involve death. 

A Journey tries really hard to establish the leading trio as the best of friends, and it does that pretty well. There’s an easy chemistry, and they’re able to rely on each other for support for comic timing and such. What doesn’t work is the pacing of the film and how they move on from one thing to another. It feels really rushed, and it’s almost as if the film is particularly designed to make you feel sorrow for these characters, which is why it fails. I don’t think being on the nose about the said topic is unusual; in fact, it warrants it, but it kind of took me out of the experience and made me less emotional. The two-hour film doesn’t feel poignant; it just feels like a movie about friends who want to help each other. 

The three leads, Paolo Contis, Patrick Garcia, and Kaye Abad, all try really hard to pull at our heartstrings with the material they have, but it doesn’t make you feel a visceral sense of dread. No, I’m not trying to say that that’s how the movie has to be, but it’s very clearly a film that expects you to have a knee-jerk reaction to its sentimentality, which, for me, didn’t quite work. Additionally, the cookie-cutter film has a twist of fate that made me feel like it was piled on just for a reaction. And this is coming from someone who will go out of their way to find movies to cry to. Also, it’s not that hard for my taps to be turned on, yet this one didn’t quite do it as expected. 

Because I haven’t seen many Filipino movies, I’m going to compare them to the one I watched most recently. I think in terms of direction, despite GomBurZa being a completely different genre of film, there was stylization, and the film felt like it was better produced. In this case, the movie is very decorative; they go to Tasmania to see little penguins, which are adorable; one of the guys is a celebrated actor with playboy vibes; and I honestly thought the whole bit with him felt very random in an otherwise plain film. There was some strange way of making it into an adult film, which, for me, felt unnecessary. Additionally, the moments of friendship feel quite superficial, and we don’t actually get to know much about the characters as such. There’s an exploration of a familial bond that was previously broken, and that too comes across as put together in the last moment, just to add another dose of sadness. 

It’s not in the way that some pieces of media have terrible things happen to a character one after another until they reach a breaking point, and we feel completely wrecked by the impact; it’s more like random things get thrown in when there is no need. A Journey reminded me of the Bollywood movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Yes, that movie has completely different motives, but at the end of the day, they deliver the same message: you only live once. They’re both celebrations of life, and they use road trips as a metaphor for the journey that is life itself. However, I felt more emotionally wrecked by that one, despite it being a comedy, than by this one. It also reminded me of the novel My Sister’s Keeper, which throws an unexpected twist that, for many people, completely took them out of it. I guess I somewhat felt the same way with A Journey. I don’t think it’s a bad ending as such; I just don’t think the “journey” there was worthwhile. Still, thanks to Netflix, I’m able to experience world cinema like never before, and so I appreciate the chance to watch this Filipino movie. I will keep my eye out for more Filipino films and shows because this is just a small start. 

Sometimes, a little is enough, and for me, there are parts of A Journey that were sufficient to make it a good movie and an impactful one as well. Yet, what they end up doing with it is quite messy. I really wanted to enjoy this film—not really enjoy it, but like it at least. However, it left me dissatisfied. At the end of the day, I’m quite the simpleton, and I don’t need much to get me going; however, when a film promises grief, I expect it. I don’t mean to be insensitive; this just didn’t work for me personally. If you’re looking for something to cry to that evokes your pent-up feelings, then this might do the trick. If you’re one who lives by the idea that you haven’t lived until you’ve really lived, then this one might be right up your alley. For me, A Journey is an average film at best that you can watch once. It doesn’t leave a lasting impression like it hopes to, so I’d give it about 2.5 stars for an attempt at being something great. 

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
When not tending to her fashion small business, Ruchika or Ru spends the rest of her time enjoying some cinema and TV all by herself. She's got a penchant for all things Korean and lives in drama world for the most part.

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