Ulan ★★★★

It feels goofy at times. The tone twists and bends, leaning comedic, jumping dramatic, veering into the fantastical. Maya is given advice by a tikbalang. She believes the rain is a curse. She speaks to typhoons. It's all in her head, or maybe it isn't. It doesn't really matter, in the end. It gets goofy, but that's mainly a consequence of the film's earnestness.

This isn't really a romance. In some ways, it's an anti-romance. The film takes the tropes of the genre and just throws them away. A love long gone returns. The prince sweeps the princess off her feet. A childhood crush stands up to protect her. A man chooses the girl over the heavens. In one scene, after a heartbreak, Maya is literally cutting onions, chemically inducing the tears that didn't come. Yeah, it's goofy.

But it's also coming from a very intriguing place. More than once, Maya is criticized for her lack of sensuality. "Walang kang libog," she's chided, because of course, romance requires libog. At the same time, Maya lives in a fairy tale world, where she's also told that the heavens can do nothing to stand in the way of true love. And that is romance, too.

Maya, like all of us, is a product of centuries of romance, an accumulation of ideas about how love should be. And the film plays up the allure of these ideas, before fully rejecting them in heading into a more unfamiliar thematic direction.

Does it work? Maybe. Again, it can feel really goofy. The back third, in familiar, has the film taking these big cinematic swings that probably won't land for a lot of people. Personally, I like those swings. I like how much this film is willing to put itself out there, how far it strays in tone and in theme from the vast body of romantic work that precedes it. I didn't always buy what it was giving me, but I appreciated the offer. This is a genuinely strange movie, and given everyone involved, it's pretty astonishing.